The Air Runes - Chapter 8

The Last Descendant: The Air Runes

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Chapter 8: The Quiet Night

As Emey flew above the ocean of clouds, Cail looked behind him and saw his home island, Elona, fading away. Throughout his entire childhood, Elona was the only world he had ever known, and now it was drifting from him. Everything he knew about his previous life had turned into a memory in his mind. Cail began to agonize about venturing out into the unknown, about what would become of him. Then he looked up to the night sky. The stars resting above comforted Cail of his anxiety. They gave him illumination during his flight through the night.

After a few hours of flying through the darkness, the island of Silman began to grow larger. The closer Emey flew, the more their destination swelled. Cail’s father said Silman was a vast island, but Cail was unprepared for what laid before him. Colossal mountains were spread throughout the island, reaching as high as Silman was wide. Elona was a mere pebble compared to the mountains that rested on Silman. If there were civilizations here at one time, surely they’re here no longer. Cail thought to himself, seeing the prodigious masses of rock along with the forests that covered their bases.

There was one mountain that stood taller than all the rest. It towered over the entire island, like a father standing over his child. The base of the mountain was made of cobalt rock and surrounded by emerald trees. The trees faded as the mountain grew taller and the rocks turned gray. A coat of snow rested on the peak of the mountain, snow as white as the clouds. There appeared to be no sign of life along the sides of the mountain, it was only illuminated by the starlight in the sky.

Then Cail spotted a few specks of light at a gap in between the forest and the mountain. “There are people here!” Cail exclaimed to himself. He turned Emey toward their direction, flying directly toward the light, but then he remembered the warning his father issued to him. I can’t let them see me yet, they might not be friendly folk.

Cail spotted a bare mass of land a short distance away from the light. He directed Emey down to the ground and she gracefully landed without making a ruckus. Once Cail jumped down from Emey’s back onto the hard, dusty ground, he gave her some fruit from his pack and whispered, “I’ll call for you if I’m in danger.” Cail could see that she understood him and then she launched into the dark sky.

Cail turned around and saw a faint light emanating through the trees in the distance. He carefully crept through the thick, course grass, trying to avoid detection. Cail moved more slowly as the lights brightened and voices grew louder. The voices were of two men, sounding burly and tough. Cail approached just close enough to where he could see the men through the trees, but also far enough away so that he would remain hidden. It was difficult to see them due to the darkness of the night, but flickering lanterns revealed broad-shouldered men, about the age of Cail’s father, attempting to carry a couple of wooden barrels.

“How much longer do we have to wait out here?” one of them asked, revealing a hint of agitation in his voice.

“I’ve told you a dozen times, we have to wait here until Cardil returns,” the other man responded. “He said it was imperative for us to wait until he found what he needed.”

“But we have the keys to the city gates. Why not just leave him out here? He is just a grumpy, old wizard after all. What good is he to us?” the first man asked.

“And if he manages to make it back into the city and find us? What do you think will happen to us then?”

“I suppose you’re right,” the first man responded, depressed they were being forced to stand still in the cold of the dead night.

I didn’t think I would find people here, much less a wizard! Cail thought to himself. On Elona, wizards were often perceived as being nothing more than a myth, an exaggeration of man. Wizards were said to have been sent by the gods to be the protectors of the world around them. Everyone has their own theory of why they had disappeared from Elona, but no one knew for certain. I must find a way into the city. This wizard could have a lot of insight on the magic I’ve discovered.

“Yes I do,” said a deep, unknown voice just behind him. Cail spun around to see a lanky man standing just behind him, wearing a gray, hooded cloak that blanketed over his body all the way down to his feet. Thick, white hair flowed from his scalp down below his shoulders and a full beard and mustache covered his lips. His wrinkly face displayed an expression of amusement at Cail’s surprise. “Thought you were being guileful, didn’t you?” said the old man with a mocking grin on his face.

“How did you know I was here?” Cail asked, baffled that he was spotted so easily.

“You have much to learn about wizards if you don’t know that you need to protect your thoughts from folk like myself,” said the wizard. Then he snatched Cail, who was easily overmatched by the wizard’s strength and led him to the two men that Cail was eavesdropping on. “We can head back to the city now. I’ve found what I was searching for.”

“Got ourselves a wanderer, do we? And after curfew hours, no less,” said one of the men. Cail could see the features of the men much more clearly. The one who had just spoken had shoulders twice as wide as Cail’s, arms that were broader than Cail’s thighs, and a belly as round as the barrel he was about to carry. His rotund head was rough, wrinkled, and only had a few strands of brown hair protruding from his scalp.

The other man, who nearly looked identical to the first, walked over to Cail and grabbed his chin with his thick fingers, inspecting Cail’s face. “A young one, he is. We see many people coming and going, but I’ve never seen the likes of you. Are you a native or a traveler?”

Cail was angry at himself for not preparing for a situation such as this. He quickly conjured a lie and said, “I’m a traveler. I come from a small farming village from the far side of Kordon.”

“I see,” said the man who was inspecting Cail. “What say you, Cardil?” he asked the wizard.

“He seems innocent enough to me,” Cardil responded. “I’ll place him in a holding cell and question him after he’s had some rest. Let’s make our way back now. We have everything we need.” The two men agreed with a low grumble and hoisted each of the barrels over their shoulders. Cardil kept a tight grip on Cail’s shoulder, ensuring that there would be no escape. They all strolled down a dirt path through the forest, which appeared manmade. Then the dirt path turned to stone and the density of the trees surrounding them began to shrink until they disappeared completely. Once out of the forest, they followed the stone trail that climbed up the side of the mountain. They continued to climb upward until the forest was barely visible behind them. Cail’s legs grew heavy, as though metal weighed down his muscles, but he was given no rest.

As they ascended toward the peak of the mountain, the air grew thin and cold. Cail, who had not prepared for any sort of extreme environment, began to violently shiver and his skin paled. The two men and the wizard appeared to be unfazed by the weather, mostly due to the fact that their thick clothing shielded them from the bitter air.

After almost an hour of hiking up the side of the mountain, they all stopped at what appeared to be an entrance to a cavern. There was a door made of thick, gray stone with a small keyhole. One of the men walked over with a small, bronze key in his hand and inserted it into the keyhole. Cail heard a loud thud and watched in awe as he saw the door descend into the ground, opening an entryway into the mountain. Cardil released Cail from his grasp and asked, “Do you know where you are?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Cail responded. He contemplated running away and whistling for Emey, but he was too curious about the new path that lied before him.

“We are on the footsteps of the great mountain city of Darzomil. It has been a sanctuary for miners and merchants for centuries. Your intentions remain unclear, so you can’t be allowed to roam freely until I interrogate you, but that can wait until the morning,” said Cardil.

“So I’m being forced to stay in prison overnight?” Cail asked, irritated by the setback.

“That’s one way to put it,” Cardil said with a sly smile on his face. “You have no say in the matter. I’d recommend coming with us peacefully, choosing otherwise could prove to be much more difficult for you.” Cail agreed, even though he was less than enthusiastic about being incarcerated.

The wizard led Cail, along with the other two men, into the cave’s entrance. The corridor they walked through was illuminated only by the lanterns they carried with them. Cail would occasionally trip over small rocks that laid on the path. Even though Cail couldn’t see anything in front of him, he could feel the dirt trail leading them down into the heart of the mountain. After several moments of walking blindly in the darkness, Cail could see a speck of luminance in the distance that gradually grew brighter as they walked closer.

The corridor led to a colossal cavern, full of precipices and winding trails along the cavern’s walls, which were brightened by thousands of lanterns throughout the cave. Along the walls were miners, hanging from thick, metal wires and picking away at the wall, searching for treasure. Clangs from the axes carving into the stone walls filled the cavern, creating an energetic tonality.

The cliff they stood over descended down into the mountain, so far down that no floor could be seen. Cail walked over to the cliff and peered down into the depths of the cave. He could feel his stomach turn and his head dizzied from the thought of falling to his death.

Cardil turned to his two companions and said, “Well, this is where we part ways. Make sure the goods you’re carrying fall into the right hands.” The two men acknowledged the wizard’s demand and sprinted off. Then the wizard turned toward Cail and said, “You need to come with me, we’ve got quite a bit more walking to do.” Cail agreed, although he had no choice, and followed Cardil down the stone steps leading into the cave. The staircase wound around the perimeter of the cylindrical dungeon, descending deep into the mountain.

As they walked down the staircase they passed some small shops, with rooms made of stone, selling fine jewels and gems. Curiosity got the best of Cail and he asked, “How did they manage to build stores within the stone?”

“They didn’t build only stores, they’ve built homes, schools, and entire cities out of the stone in this mountain. The people regard this mountain as a gift from the gods, a blessing bestowed upon them. Therefore, they treat the mountain with great care and respect.”

As they continued to descend down the steps, light was scarce and the noise of the miners faded away. The cave that was exuberant turned into a silent prison of stone. The only sources of light were lanterns that illuminated the staircase, Cail could see nothing else. After several moments of walking in mute gloom, Cail said, “No offense intended, but Darzomil wasn’t exactly how you portrayed it to be.”

“That wasn’t Darzomil,” Cardil responded. “That was simply a suburb, if you will. You won’t see the city of the mountain until tomorrow, assuming I allow you to see it at all after my interrogation.” Cail feared the cunning wizard, especially since Caldir could hear Cail’s thoughts.

They finally reached the last lantern and to their right was an open doorway made of iron. “This way,” Caldir mumbled to Cail. The corridor they walked through was made of solid iron, with matching doors on each side of the hallway. Every step sent a clang through the bleak corridor.

Caldir stopped at a door to his right and retrieved a large set of keys from the pocket of his cloak. He clumsily fumbled through his keys until he found the one that fit into the keyhole. Caldir twisted the key and with a light click, the door propped open, revealing a cold, dreary cell. Then the wizard led Cail into the cell and said, “You would be wise to get as much rest as you can. You’ll need the extra energy for what lies in your future.” Caldir walked out of the cell and closed the door behind him, locking Cail in his new room of isolation.

Cail, who was still trying to comprehend all that had happened to him, walked over to the bed that rested in the corner of the cell. He sat on the firm mattress, which gave him as much comfort as a wooden board, and then laid on his back in silence. His emotions began to stir inside of his mind. Cail felt angry for being so reckless and for being caught so easily. His father warned him of the dangers of traveling here, but he paid no heed. Cail felt sadness for being all alone in a world he knew nothing about.

A small tear slid down his cheek. For the first time, he felt grave fear and helplessness. For the first time, he could feel the necessity for the outside air. The sun and the wind created his sanctuary, but he took them for granted.

Then Cail remembered Laney and Kadir. Remembering how happy he was to have them as his friends, but he left all that behind. I must find a way out of this prison. I need my friends just as much as they need me. Cail thought to himself. The thought of being reunited with his friends comforted him. The comfort caused Cail to become weary and allowed him to drift off into sleep.

This is only a small portion of Cail's adventure! If you would like to read about the entire tale, click on the image below to purchase the book!

The Last Descendant: The Air Runes