SKY – Chapter 11
His wounds ached, but they were healing. The tour around the city was a nice change of pace from the frantic violence of several days before. It was educational, allowing him to heal both his body and mind.
Cruntiq suggested that he do this, thinking it would be a good experience for him to learn about the kingdom, and to encourage him to move on, past the frivolous atmosphere of the celebrations.
“In the residential districts, homes and businesses are built on top of old ruins and former settlements. Each layer of a tower or complex has centuries of history,” Sota said.
“What happened to the people living in the lower levels?” Hleis asked.
“They’re usually gone before people start building above, likely all deceased or moved away to somewhere else,” Sota replied.
“Then those buildings would be uninhabited right? Why not just move in there?”
“People like to create their own things. They like what’s familiar. Isn’t that what your group is doing with your new home? Making it more comfortable, more like West-Hail.”
“Hmm I suppose so, I guess I can see that. Wow, then that’s a pretty consistent thing between all of us, huh. I mean considering the size of this place. By the way, how come this area doesn’t have any layers to it?”
“Well this is the city center, no one is allowed to settle here. History lesson! The continent Center-Storm was built on was said to be very mountainous, as in, very tall and very rocky. So at it’s highest point, where we are right now, the capital and city center was built. They rest of the city was built around it at lower elevations.”
“Okay. So the reason, I’m guessing, that the buildings here are so different from the rest of the city, is because these are the original ones?”
“Yup, if you look over to the right, that huge hall is the grand library, it’s all original, never been rebuilt, never been renovated.”
“That’s fascinating. It’s amazing that it has held up all this time. It’s like a relic of what the kingdom looked like when it just got started.”
“It’s not the only one! I’ll show you the mage academy, it’s not as old, but it’s still been around for nearly two thousand years!”
The streets were narrow and often descended into poorly lit tunnels and pathways. Torches mounted to the walls, lit up the areas blocked from the daylight. The older areas of the city had an antique feel, but were not designed to accommodate the vertical metropolis that Center-Storm had become.
Vayling, Maltii and Traer met up with Sota and Hleis shortly after lunchtime, to join them on their tour of the mage academy. The gates where carved with the names of all the great mages forgotten from history with a statue of the first headmaster watching from atop it. Children of all ages were seen playing together in the courtyards. Some spent their time reading, others were practicing magic and some swung swords and fists under the guidance of an adult in the familiar capital armor.
“This is where I grew up. We would spend half the day learning and honing our magic, then we would spend the rest learning about the history of our kingdom and the great figures from the past.”
“Why did you need to learn all that other stuff?” Vayling asked.
“Well, firstly, it’s because we were children. That’s just what you teach kids in school…Secondly, one of the main aims of the academy is to teach the students how to build upon what’s been done in the past and create their own spells. You know, add to the pool of human knowledge.”
“Have you created any new spells Sota?” Traer asked.
“I’m not quite at that point yet,” she replied. “Usually, the mages that do are much older and really experienced, or discover it completely by genius or accident.”
“Like mage captain Veindelio?”
“Yeah. They say he does have a unique spell, but I’ve never seen it.”
“That would be cool to see. We’ve all seen how strong you are, it’d be cool to witness how just how powerful humans can get,” Vayling replied.
“Can we go inside?” asked Traer.
“Unfortunately no, this is a school after all. It’s full of children and not really a place for visitors. Let’s go back to the square, we can go inside the library which is one of the most famous sites in the city!”
“Who’s this guy?” Vayling asked.
They had paused in front of a magnificent statue of a man. The figure was as tall as any building in the city center. They had seen it a couple times flying over in transit, but up close, they noticed all sorts of details never seen before like the silver and gold trimmings that adorned the stone armor. He stood with a sword on his hip, hand resting on its hilt. His hair was pushed back and his was mouth covered by the cloth that wrapped around his neck and chin, stopping just below his nose.
“Okay, I know you guys are from pretty far away, but surely you recognized the first king?” Sota replied.
“That’s just Vayling. We don’t know what he looks like, but anyone could tell it was him just by the size of the statue,” Maltii replied.
“So what’s his story? I heard he was a great warrior, a really strong swordsman and could fire rain from the skies and all that stuff, but I’ve also heard he lived for over five hundred years, is that right?” Hleis said.
“That’s how the story goes,” Sota replied. “He was the greatest warrior when the kingdom first formed. All the various human states gathered under his banner during the first mastig wars. Since the war never ended, they never left his banner and that’s how the kingdom was formed.”
“But do you think he lived five hundred years? Especially as someone rumored to have such great magical abilities?” Traer asked.
“I think that part has to be a myth. A legend exaggerated by history. Probably something that was said to the people to keep morale up in the early years,” Hleis said.
“Right. It has to be. That’s just not possible for a human,” Sota replied.
“The fact that no one has done it since kind of proves that he didn’t either, right?” Maltii said.
“If it were due to technology, others would have lived just as long.” Traer responded.
“It also can’t be due to magic right? Otherwise you would all know how to do it,” Vayling said.
“That, plus it goes against everything we understand about magic,” Sota replied.
“Still, it’s cool to think about,” Hleis said.
The library was one massive hall. Much like the city itself, shelves of books were built on top of one another, as more and more knowledge was collected. Tables were scattered about at various locations and elevations, with fast moving librarians constantly retrieving and returning books to the shelves.
“I didn’t realize how much of our knowledge came from books traded to us by harpies,” Maltii said in astonishment.
“Yeah, some of these books are older than our entire kingdom. I wouldn’t be surprised if they predated our entire race,” Traer noted.
“Good thing they’ve been translated so we can read them. There’s some fascinating stuff in here. Like they’ve catalogued all these animals that I never knew existed,” Maltii replied. “Look! They even have sketches and details on dragons!”
“I’m more interested in some of the descriptions of these places in this book,” Hleis said. “The librarian said this one is estimated to be from eight thousand years ago.”
“Is that right? Wow, what do they describe? Purple skies or something?” Maltii asked.
“No, nothing like that. In fact they describe a place with no skies at all. All ground and caves. It’s always dark, with the only light provided by fire,” Hleis replied.
“Huh? That makes no sense,” Vayling said.
“Ah, that’s a book by one of those ancient explorers right? You guys might not know this, but the legend is that once there was a team of harpy explorer’s who traveled to other realms. They recorded what they found then brought it back to the ancient harpy empires to share with their brethren,” Sota said.
“What do you mean other realms? Like other continents right?” Hleis asked.
“Probably, the terminology in their language was not clear. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were countless continents out there that we never knew existed,” Sota said.
“I mean, humans didn’t know of the existence of mastigs until roughly twenty five hundred years ago. The world is much bigger than we’ve seen.” Traer said.
“I bet there are places out there where there are no mastigs. We could spend our days like we did today,” Maltii murmured.
“That does sound nice. Maybe that’s one way to end the wars…” Hleis said.
“Well, if we run away, it’s only a matter of time before we’re discovered again right?” Vayling asked.
“If these books are to be believed, then we’ll just run again. Until they get bored of chasing us. If we left, why would they chase us?” Hleis replied.
“Why did they attack us in the first place?” Vayling responded.
“Who knows, that was millennia ago. If anyone bothered to ask them then, we’ve lost that knowledge since,” Traer said.
“What, you mean like talk to the mastigs?” Sota joked. “Can they even talk?”
“They’re clearly not stupid. They have an entire empire and you’ve seen their warships. Surely there would have been attempts at communication made in the past right?” Hleis asked.
“That’s hard to say. We can’t even question the ones we capture now, they always seem to mysteriously die just after being captured,” Traer replied.
“Ha! Why are there are so many weird things in the world?” Vayling jokingly asked.
Time flew by fast. Before he knew it, Hleis began to consider Center-Storm his home. Life defining events kept on occurring around him ever since he found security within the city.
Maltii was spending more and more of her free time at the library, even becoming a scholar’s apprentice, hoping one day, after retiring from combat, she could go into academia in order to focus on the study the world around her.
To her, the library was a godsend. The books were uncountable, and the things to learn were endless. Traer would often accompany her, and the people she could talk to about the fauna, the nature of their kingdom, grew in number. She became much happier, glad to be surrounded by people who shared her interests.
Vayling met a girl at one of the after parties. She would greet him every time they returned from a mission. After a while, every time Hleis would see Vayling, he would also see her alongside him.
She was from another settlement in the city, one nothing like West-Hail, one completely destroyed by mastigs. She told them how they were poor upon arrival to Center-Storm. She was beautiful and had to become a dancer for a living; always surrounded by men who desired her, men she wanted nothing to do with.
Vayling was also clearly attracted to her like the others, but he was more interested in talking to the other soldiers about the sad aspects of their lives, spinning these conversations with his humor, helping his friends overcome their losses in the difficulties of war. She would overhear these talks and wanted to have similar ones with him.
One thing led to another and eventually they announced their marriage. Hleis was Vayling’s best man. Seeing his closest friend find the love of his life impacted him deeply. It made him realize that this was their home now. They were no longer just the people of West-Hail, but fully integrated citizens of the capital.
Hleis began to spend more time with Sota. She expanded his horizons and forced him to leave his comfort zone. He was the stable company she needed as she began to come to terms with the fact that she would pass away far earlier than the contemporaries she grew close with. The bonds she had built outside the mage community were affecting her. As those friends began to plan for their futures, she felt sorrow that she could not do the same.
These were feelings she would only tell Hleis, and as they spent more time together, their relationship progressed beyond a simple friendship. He wanted to be there for her, through the last two decades of her life, as they would not be easy times for someone so young.