Chapter Twenty-Two: War and Power
A faint voice echoed in the distance, coming closer and closer to me. I tried to walk forward and found my legs could not move. I tried to call out, but found my voice had gone.
The voice calling out grew closer, and a faint light seemed grew larger in the distance. The voice grew stronger, more urgent, as the light grew larger and brighter.
The sting of heat and electricity struck into my body and grew more intense as the bright light began to take up my entire vision. The voice grew desperate and screamed.
My body stood frozen, eyes fixed on the enveloping light. The voice called out again and again, screaming my name, before it all vanished into darkness.
* * *
My eyes opened up to a bright, blurry world as I gasped for air.
“Alex!” Called a familiar female voice.
“I did tell you there was no need for worry. She was simply knocked out by the massive exertion.” This strong, male voice sounded familiar as well. But my mind could not put who it belonged to.
“I know, but it’s just good to see she is back.” I know this voice well.
“Anna.” I muttered.
“Alex, yes, it’s me. How are you feeling?”
My head throbbed, protesting any attempt to sit up. “Been better.”
“Adrianna, if you could please give me and Alexandria a moment to speak.”
There was a short pause. “Okay. Yes, sir.”
Footsteps and a door closed.
My vision was still blurred, but at least it didn’t seem so bright in here anymore.
“Just keep laying down. It’s better for you than trying to sit down or stand for the moment.”
Footsteps came around to stand beside me, and a blurred face looked over me. My vision was slowly clearing now, and a strong looking face, with flowing blonde and silver hair came into view.
“Captain. Is that you?”
“It’s good to see your memory is intact. Alex, per protocol, I need to ask you a few questions relating to your recovery being you are still under my guidance with the others. But, I’ll fill that out from my own observation, Instead, I will be asking you more important questions which I need you to answer as best you can.”
I managed a slight nod. “I understand.”
He flipped out a clipboard and began to scribble things down as he wandered up and down where I lay.
“As of now, you are the only surviving and conscious member who saw the bomb during the assault. Which means I am relying on your skills of observation to describe what you saw so we know what kind of device it was, and who made it.”
My head throbbed harder at the thought, but I urged myself to remember.
“Take your time.”
I thought back to the battle. Flickers of memories of men in different coloured armour fighting it out in a bloody battle flashed through my mind as I delved deeper and deeper.
My mind seemed to leap too far ahead for a moment, and I recalled running away and looking back at a larger ball of energy chasing me.
“I remember what the explosion looked and felt like.”
“That’s good, but I need you to remember what the device looked like prior to its activation.”
I thought even harder to push away the memory of being chased, and the desperate struggle against the enemy forces. My recollection then settled on a tent. Time moved forward and I was inside looking down in horror at a bomb. My head throbbed harder.
“All I can remember is it being a larger cylinder device with tubes running from one side to the other. It was sparking when I reached it, too far gone to stop.”
“Did you see anything on the bomb perhaps that might help aside from its design? Maybe a specific item or tag that could point to where it came from?”
I closed my eyes and tried again to recall the device.
“No… I can’t think of anything else. It was too far gone towards critical. I left the tent and alerted the others immediately.”
I opened my eyes and found my vision now clear. Fenix stood close, staring at his clip board.
“Looks like the full blame will be on the Eastern Clans for both violating diplomacy, and the manufacture of highly destructive weapons.” He sighed lightly and began to depart the room. “Take it easy until you feel you are able to return.
I managed to sit up with great effort. “Sir. I am ready to return to my unit.”
He looked back at me for a moment, then nodded. “Very well, but before you do, I would like you to speak with the Aerial Master. He will be awaiting to instruct you.”
I stared quizzically at Fenix. “Aerial Master?”
“Ah, seems you need a reboot on that memory.” He gave a wry smile before turning to walk off. “You’ve harnessed the ability of flight.”
* * *
I approached the study where the Aerial Master resided, still dumbfounded by the news. I could barely recall anything after trying to escape. Perhaps I’d taken myself too far and blacked out, leaving the rest somewhat a dream.
If that was the case, then that meant that more trainer was needed to be able to hold up for even longer in battle, for combat could last hours even a day or more. To lose all focus and blackout from fatigue would mean death in almost every circumstance.
I reached the door and prepared to knock, when a deep voice announced from within,
and so I did and revealed behind a room antiquated with a variety of trinkets, a small fireplace with a tin pipe leading outside, couch, an old grandfather clock, and in the corner closest to the desk was a cabinet filled with various liquors.
Behind the desk sat an old and bald man, silently reading a book.
“Good you have arrived. Please, take a seat,” He requested in a deep tone that despite his appearance of age resonated with a strength from his days as a field commander.
I bowed my head slightly before taking a seat, a customary sign of respect to those deemed with a title of Master.
For a minute we sat without a word, with no other noise in the room except that of the crackling fire and the ticking of the old clock. It was also respect that in the presence of a Master that one should not talk unless asked to.
At last the Master put down his book and eased back into his chair with a comforted sigh.
“So you have achieved a unique trait of flight, have you.”
“And a unique variety as well, as the description holds. Wings, if I read the documentation correctly, very good for someone as young as yourself.”
I simply nodded this time.
“Now with the latest confrontation we do not have many trainers on station here who can teach you properly how to utilise your new talent, which means you will have to be tutored by myself. Harnessing the capacity to leap great distances and heights, or to control ones energies to hover in the air are not the same as being able to summon great wings in which to take flight across great distances, but they are also weapons. Proper training will result in stronger wings, and the stronger they get, the more durable they become. Treat them badly, and they will fail you and cause more harm than a sword into the side.”
“I’ve spoken with your captain and organised session separate from your current drills. I expect you outside by The Brush each morning before first light.” He eased into his chair and lit a gnarled looking wooden pipe. “That will be all. You are dismissed from all training today for recovery until your unit receives summons for a debriefing.”
I stood up, bowed my head and departed, speaking no words while my mind spun about from the intake of recent events and changes.
* * *
Not long from taking rest at the dormitories had a messenger arrived to pass word that every members of Fenix’s unit were to meet immediately.
I moved hastily to the room scheduled for the briefing, but a tugging on my mind caused me to stall approach. Since the battle I’d had no knowledge of who had escaped alive. It was obvious enough that the conflict had caused many deaths on both sides, and many more had perished during the explosion, but as for those who’d gotten away, and those of my unit, the only one who I could be certain of was Adrianna, and only then because I’d been with her last upon escape.
There were 5 groups of 4 before the confrontation. How many were left? They were grim thoughts. Did Baelomeir make it? I even had concerns for Ego and Giant. They were both hot headed in battle. So was their might enough?
The door to the debriefing room was finally in front of me, the front page of a book that held the information I now anxiously seeked.
I took a breath and opened the door, making up my mind in acceptance that we were legitimate soldiers now. If it wasn’t going to be that battle before that got us, it would be a battle later on down the track that would be our end.
Fenix was talking already to the group that was inside when I entered. He nodded in my direction and continued as I took my seat.
My gut churned a little upon realisation that half of the unit were in attendance. Among them I spied Baelomeir, who wore a patch over one eye, and Ego, a bandage around an arm, but otherwise seemed uninjured. Giant, probably the one I’d expected to meet his end the least was not in sight.
My attention refocused to what Fenix was discussing.
“With the Eastern Clans now holding their lines along the edge of the Cy’Loaen Forest, the Order has dispatched a number to reinforce the garrisons to the North and Southern sections of the Forest. One of these Garrisons being near a town which is under a strict emergency curfew. The magistrate is pending further discussion to evacuate the town or not.”
He clicked a button and a screen displaying a map of the region came up. A red line ran along the edge of the forest with a marker displaying “Frontline”, and two circles to point out the garrisons. The Southern one was more a watch-tower than a garrison. No large walls or inner pavilion. The Northerern Garrison, from what I’d remembered as a child, was no larger, but the town did have palisades erected around some of the town to protect from bandits when they became shrewd enough to raid.
“The Eastern Clans have allied under one banner. The first time since the Great Kingdom of Islain attempted to supersede the lands we call home two-hundred years ago. The clans, though not as strongly armed and trained as the Order does practice, is still an organised threat. A horde of locust will destroy a farm faster than a group divided.”
“Do any of you not fully understand the situation?”
There were no replies. I sat staring over at Fenix, the question of how many of us were really left aching to come up.
“Right then onto–“
“Sir.” I spoke out. “Of our unit, how many do we still have… for strategic planning, of course.” I added quickly. It wasn’t a warriors place to concern themselves with a fellow soldier who’d fallen, but many of these men and women I fought alongside that day were once the same children who once we all played together with. It was also clear no-one had asked the question, and some stirred a little in their seat, curious also as to how many of their unit had survived.
Fenix cleared his throat and flipped a few pages over his clip-board. “Fifteen survivors, two still in a coma-like state, one not yet fit for combat, and twelve fit for combat. I’ll get to how your squads will be re-grouped after your mission debrief.”
“Any more questions?… No? Right then, upon command of the magistrate, your mission is going to be to stage yourselves up in the Northern Garrison where you will keep the non-combatant citizens there safe from harm. You must help escort those under-able to remain in the town to defend it. There is a camp being constructed to the South West of the town which is going to be used to get supplies to the frontline. You will lead them here, and then await commands from the General or ranking officer there to continue escorting them to Liav ‘uri. You will be ordered otherwise if you need to change your mission. If the garrison comes under siege before the order is given, you will be dispatched to meet the evacuees half way and escort them.”
“Is this understood?”
“Yes sir,” we answered.
“As for your squads, you will no longer be working in the team you were originally assigned. For now you act as one complete unit. Magi’s will continue to do what they can to recover the rest of your unit into fighting condition and will be dispatched along with caravans to meet you when possible.”
“The Magistrate will come to a decision within the week, until then continue your training and prepare yourself. Dismissed.”
We saluted as Fenix quickly gathered his things, then in the blink of an eye vanished.
The others quietly murmured among themselves as they shuffled their way out of the room.
I stood against the wall outside, running my mind through the situation. Things were on the verge of a massive war. Was it possible still for a diplomatic resolution to come and put a halt before things escalated further? I wondered.
It seemed following the circumstances of the last battle a peaceful resolution would not come without a lot of blood-shed first.
“Alex.” I came out of my thoughtful daze to see Adrianna standing before me. I’d not noticed before, but stiches ran alongside her right cheek. “So what is the news? The unit knows you have wings. Did Fenix tell you anything about it yet? Have you seen an aerial-master? What did he say!–“
“Slow down, I’ll tell you if you let me speak.” She stopped her questions and took a serious note with her arms crossed. “I’ve been placed under tuition by the aerial master. I’ve lessons each morning before our training. But aside from that I know nothing else.”
“Did you find anything new out about the bomb?”
I leaned against the wall, thinking again back to my discovery. “No, I couldn’t. The bomb was about ready to go; no time to take in the details.”
“Damn… It doesn’t sit right that the Eastern Clan’s could’ve organised so well and had their hands on such a devastating weapon.”
At that moment, Baelomeir walked up. “So you think it’s strange too?” He spoke with his voice just audible.
“Yes. I don’t know why exactly, but I just does not fit.”
“I’ve got that same feeling. We need to keep our eyes and ears open during this conflict and hope that it can come to a resolution sooner rather than later. The truth will arise in time.”
He gave a curt nod and left. Adrianna sighed to herself.
“Is there something else wrong?” I asked.
She looked at me and smiled. “No, nothing else. I haven’t slept since the battle, so I’m going to rest up to be ready early for training tomorrow. I’ll see you then.”
“Yes, I better get some rest as well.”