Long overdue! But here it is. Chapter twenty, a most welcome return to consistency! And many more to come, weekly chapters that is. From here on out, hold on to your butts!
A Fear Realised
Ishaar’ha felt a finger slide across her forehead, a velvet touch. And a tranquility swathed her.
“Hey, wake up.” said a voice, soothing in its familiarity.
Her eyes gradually opened, only to be met once again by Uhuas’ fair countenance, the light within her blue and violet gaze – her soul shimmering within the iris like the moon upon the sea under a stary night.
The girl smiled and Ishaar’ha could not refrain from mirroring her expression. Like an angel she appeared to her. Shining with faint rays of sunlight. And she would have thought it all still a dream, if not for the burning Kaalah sap that filled the air, and Sylan who stood behind Uhua, worriedly peering past the long, worn fabric hanging from the wolves throat, watchful like a guardian. The Tar woman felt fatigued following the dream, incapable of recalling its content for the time being, and as she wakened further, the light that engulfed Uhua began to fade away.
“Finally, you’re awake.” said Sylan, still vigilant of the entrance. “I found this one following us. Uhua, is it? She was adamant on seeing you. A friend of yours no doubt.” he said, sighing. “She almost fell prey to an unsavoury, pale fellow down by the gates too. Most probably an escapee from the asylum, happens all too often. Thankfully I was there to scare him off.” he rubbed the back of his neck. “It would have been unwise on my part to send her off – if not impossible due to her stubbornness – but the streets are unsafe at this time, in these parts, not to mention the ongoing raid.”
Ishaar’ha lifted herself from the bed-roll, losing balance as she stood upon her feet. Uhua swiftly aided her.
“Are you okay?” asked the girl.
Sylan turned to look at Ishaar’ha. “No doubt the effects of the Kaalah.”
“No…” said Ishaar’ha, leaning upon Uhua. “I must return to the manor.”
“I hope you are not in a hurry.” said Sylan, looking out through the entrance once more. “This time, it looks to be serious.”
At that moment, the broken images in Ishaar’has mind fully came together, forming her memory of the dream and all that came before it. No longer was she at peace, looking down at Uhua with a feeling of dread within her heart.
“What are you doing here?” asked she the girl, sternly.
Uhua lowered her gaze. “I… cannot tell you.”
“Does your father know you are here?” said Ishaar’ha.
“He does not…” said she, crushing a small pebble beneath her feet.
“This bodes ill. Whatever compelled you to come here must be expressed at a later time. We have to find a way out of Nuwah.” She said, turning to Sylan. “We will need your help once again.”
Sylan nodded. “It would seem you are in a hurry then. Alright – a passage by the exit, I know a way through the ruins, back to the merchants house. Come, we must move swiftly.”
Ishaar’ha pushed passed her drowsy state, grasping the girl by the hand and following Sylan out from within the petrified carcass. Uhua looked back at the wolf as she was guided outside. Its eyes were now closed, the watchful void within veiled by its heavy eye-lid, clenched as if it were in great pain. She then looked back at Ishaar’ha, noting her sluggish movement and short breaths, lacking in the confidence she so exuded when they first met.
“You see?” said the voice within her head. “I did not lie.”
The three headed toward the mist-filled corridor, the thick smoke blinding their senses. And as they came closer to the exit, a horrifying cry petrified their movement. The selfsame shriek that had ended one dream, heralded the arrival of another. Ishaar’ha staggered, letting go of Uhuas hand, violently covering her face with her palms.
“Ishaar’ha?” said Uhua, tugging at her garb.
There was no answer, as the Tar woman began to cower, shivering. A fear taking hold of her very soul, tearing it apart unto its very core. A crimson stream appeared at Sylans feet, flowing down from the streets, staining the sand beneath their feet.
“Is that…” said Sylan, as he approached its source cautiously.
And before his eyes, amid the dissipating smoke, he glimpsed a man who lay upon the ground. His eye a blank stare, the glare of one whose life graced him no more, and beyond a figure of an armour-clad woman. Captain Nou.
“Blood for blood.” said she, wiping her blade.
Sylan stepped back into the shadows swiftly, reaching for his dagger. Ishaar’has’ eye fearfully watchful through the slits in between her slender fingers.
A teary eyed woman ran out from the mist, throwing herself at the ground beside the crimson puddle, and the body that lay next to it.
“Saahash!” she cried, grasping his cold hand.
“And two more shall fall. Blood for blood. You Tar should have known that the murder of mine would not go unpunished.” said the Captain, placing her blade upon the shoulder of the weeping woman, raising her voice as she spoke the following words. “I grow tired of this game of hide and seek! I know you can hear me! Show yourselves, or I will paint red the streets of Nuwah with the blood of the innocent, as did you!”
The streets were all but silent, as Nou raised her sword-arm, her blade hanging above the kneeling woman. The wind howling, whistling through the cracks of the decrepit homes that surrounded them. None rose to her call.
“As you wish!” said Nou, as her blade fell upon the woman, freezing as it grazed her throat. A droplet of blood falling upon the ground.
Ishaar’ha gasped, turning round to embrace Uhua.
“Enough.” said a voice commandingly.
The contingent of soldiers close-by readied their blades, as the Captain lifted her gaze, meeting the eye of an elderly man standing a ways from her, who held in one hand an ornate pipe and leaned upon a long, crooked staff that he grasped in the other.
“No more.” said he, expelling smoke from his lips.
“And who might you be?” said Nou, raising an eyebrow, her blade still upon the womans’ throat.
“I am the one you seek. I am Imaah’an. Elder of the Tar. I am to be held accountable for all their deeds, be they of ill or not.”
“Ah…” said the woman. “A gallant effort, but your life alone cannot satiate the justice that I seek. There must be one other. Blood for blood. Three for three. I do not believe you to have perpetrated these murders, but if you give your life to me, that sacrifice shall satisfy but one of mine own.”
The elder man stepped forward. “My life shall satisfy your vengeance, take it and leave, fore you lose your own, and thine own.” he said, motioning at the soldiers.
“Is that a threat?” said Nou.
Imaah’an shook his head. “It is not a threat. It is compassion. Remember where you are Captain. This land belongs to the Tar, and they move upon you as we speak. The last uprising is imminent, the deaths of the three are only the beginning. If you stay here any longer, you will die, along with your men.” The old man said as he walked forward, kneeling before her.
Nou tilted her head thoughtfully. “Hmmm… to cut down an Elder. What a prize. Mayhap you are right, the commander will be most pleased.” said she, releasing the woman from deaths embrace.
“Captain!” shouted a voice from behind them. A soldier on horse-back, galloped towards them at great speed, making way amid the soldiers.
“What is it?” said she, standing now beside the Elder as the steed halted before her, its hooves skidding upon the ground, lifting the sand fiercely.
“The Garrison! It’s under attack!”
“What?!” answered Nou, panic stricken.
“It’s all a ruse! You must return swiftly!” he said, as he blew into a horn, signalling the retreat.
“God be damned. The scum.” she muttered, turning to her soldiers. “Well what are you waiting for. Move!”
The soldiers saluted, before marching back hastily towards the gates.
“Nows our chance.” whispered Sylan, looking back, only to see Ishaar’ha lay on the ground, unconscious. Uhua trembling beside her.
Nou placed her blade upon the Elders throat.
“Captain…” said the soldier. “We must go.”
“…not before I have my vengeance.” said she.
Imaah’ans pale white eye wandered to the corridor, and he let loose a golden smile, as he saw Sylan carry Ishaar’ha upon his back into the shadows of the passage, beside the steps of a crumbling home, and the palm tree swaying above, its leaves rustling, singing an ode to life, nature, beauty and above all else – hope.