The Cenoal Chapters: Duties Reclaimed - Part Four
"Well, it's official," Aelgar stated. "That guy is insane AND creepy."
"What did he mean by what he said?" Emperor Irazen wondered out loud. "How can we all be doomed? You saved me and their plan to place a fake on the throne failed."
"That isn't their full plan." Cenoal emerged from behind the curtains, where he had watched the insane council member dragged off with the cursed red gleam still shining in his eyes. "They're going to strike Shenkuu, and strike it hard. At least, that's what I understood from what he was telling us when he thought we were messengers." Cenoal began to wander aimlessly around the room, lost in thought. "We need to be prepared."
"Why is Shenkuu so important?" Aelgar asked. "Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful place, but what makes it important enough for such dire threats?"
Cenoal didn't respond. He had stopped and was busy studying the large, ancient map on the wall. Irazen replied in his stead. "Perhaps he was lying. Perhaps they are just the ramblings of a madman."
"Sire, what is this?" The two turned to face the Aisha. He was pointing to a palace on the map, a few days' hard riding away from Shenkuu. Aelgar didn't recognize it. And even he knew there were no kingdoms near Shenkuu. At least, not that near.
Irazen stared hard at the spot on the map. The cartographer had placed, in the background of the palace, a beautiful blossom. The text below had faded and was unreadable. "I don't know. I've never noticed it before."
Shade had entered the room while they were talking. He started at the map. "Cenoal, is that..."
"I think it is," the Aisha replied. "Betrayal wants Shenkuu so she has easy access to Areshen."
"I'm sorry, you lost me there," Aelgar said, confused. "What is an Areshen?"
"Areshen is the Kingdom of Legends," another voice replied. They all turned to see another Cybunny, her black hair done up in a series of loops and dressed in a beautiful red and blue robe, step into the room. "They said it was thrown into ruin and all records of it erased after a terrible tragedy that no one remembers."
"Then how do you know about it, Princess Lunara?" Cenoal asked.
"I have heard tales of it, whispers of the legends," she replied. "Mostly from people who had dreams of it."
There was a pause. "Well, whatever the case, it seems this 'Betrayal' is determined to have Shenkuu," Irazen stated. "We will gather our army immediately."
Cenoal shook his head. "While I would suggest doing that, an army wouldn't do you any good," he stated. "I've seen Meridell and Altador fall to this, and your armies don't compare to theirs."
"Then what do you suggest we do, thief?" Lunara questioned, a drop of venom I her tone.
Cenoal glared at the princess. "If that was meant as an insult, then I suggest using something else. Being called a thief is a compliment to me." Emperor Irazen stared at him strangely.
Aelgar coughed. "Cenoal, quit bickering and tell us what you know already."
"The Mists of Ameilor," Cenoal responded.
"How do you know about the Mists of Ameilor?" Lunara demanded.
"You aren't the only well-read one here, Milady," Cenoal replied. "I suggest we speak with your chronicler immediately."
"The more you two answer, the more questions you give," Aelgar said, sighing. "What are the Mists of Ameilor and who is this chronicler?"
"I think it best we show you," Lunara replied, already making her way out the door.
"I will accompany you," the Emperor stated.
"I think it best you get some rest, Your Majesty," Cenoal said. "You've had a long night and it's a long way to the Wise Gnorbu's house."
"Then I will send a guard with you," he stated.
Lunara sighed. "Father, I'll be fine. You really don't have to."
"Yes, I do," the Emperor insisted. "I don't want you losing your way... again."
An old brown Gnorbu opened the doors of his home. He stared at the Aisha, the two Cybunnies, and the imperial guard and chuckled. His gaze lingered on Cenoal. "Well, this is an unexpected surprise. Enter, please, and make yourselves at home..."
He led them to a simple sitting room and sat them down, bustling away to make tea before any of them could protest. He arrived back and handed them each a cup, pouring green tea into each. "It's been a long time since your last visit," he stated.
"Yes, I am sorry, old friend, but Father's become even more protective and it's driving me mad," Lunara said.
The Gnorbu smiled. "So, tell me, what brings you here?"
"We need to know more about the Mists of Ameilor," Lunara replied.
The old Gnorbu glanced at Aelgar and the guard. "The mists are a secret known only to the royal family and their chroniclers. I am afraid I cannot tell you of them in the presence of strangers." The guard stood and signaled for Cenoal and Aelgar to do the same. They did so, and followed him out. Cenoal was only half out the door, however, when the old Gnorbu called him back. "I am sorry but I would be able to explain things to the princess more if I had my tome," he stated, standing and making his way down a hall. "It's in the back, high up in the shelf. I was wondering if you could help me fetch it, Lord...?"
"Cenoal," the Aisha replied. He followed the old Gnorbu until a set of doors. These he opened to reveal shelves upon shelves of old tomes and scrolls. He stepped inside and the Gnorbu shut the door behind him.
"Well, out with it, lad," he said. "What are you doing here?"
Cenoal just stared for a moment and sighed. "It's a lengthy story," he replied. "The long short of it is that I came to take up a position with a number of refugees from the other lands. I heard of the troubles in Shenkuu and... decided to help."
"Does the Emperor recognize you?" the Gnorbu asked urgently.
"No," Cenoal replied.
"This has been going on for far too long," he said. "I don't understand why you can't at least tell him who you are."
Cenoal glared at him. "Never."
"Boy, he lost a son to you!" the Gnorbu exclaimed.
"And I lost a father to him!" Cenoal retorted.
Cenoal's old mentor sighed. "As stubborn as always, just like your father." He pointed to a tome up on a high shelf. "That's the tome I need. If you would be so kind?"
Cenoal climbed the shelves as though they were steps and took the tome. He released his hold on the shelf and fell to the ground, landing, as always, gracefully. Something began to glow against his chest and he felt it become warm somehow. His hand felt infinitely better. He reached around his neck and found that a chord was hanging around it. Of course. He removed the small, smooth pendant from his neck and stared at it as it glowed faintly. After their escape from Altador with Shade and her uncle, he had told her that his hand was ailing him and she had simply handed the gem to him. The Aisha had forgotten about it completely since then.
The Gnorbu stared in shock. "Where did you get that?"
"It was given to me," he replied, "by a friend."
"Do you know what that is?" the Gnorbu questioned.
"A fragment of the Sovereign's Crystal, Water," the Aisha replied. He knew all about the Crystals from the book he now kept in the sling-on bag at his side.
"It goes by another name, Cenoal," the old scholar stated. "It is known to me as Neamtal."
Cenoal's eyes widened. "The only thing that can power the mists?"
"Not quite," the scholar corrected. "Lycihnus and Gacilo, Light and Darkness, can both power the mists as well, but I doubt Darkness would give a desirable outcome."
"Wait, will Water work without Darkness or Light powering it?" Cenoal questioned.
"Neamtal was made years ago for Shenkuu's protection, much like the others were made for the protection of other lands," the Gnorbu explained. "If you wish to use it for anything else, then you will need Darkness or Light, but when it is allowed to do the task assigned it, then you need not fear that it will fail you."
"Is it really that simple?" Cenoal asked.
"No," the scholar replied, "but for now it is enough."
"How will I find it?" Cenoal asked.
"The original was destroyed in the tragedy that eclipsed Areshen," the Gnorbu admitted. "But, you must not lose hope. It is said that the four gems could be remade."
"Where?" Cenoal asked.
"Only their fragments could tell..."
Lunara burst into the room, her eyes wide with fear. "What is it?" Cenoal asked.
"An army," she said, her voice barely audible. "A messenger arrived right after you left. He said a scout had found an army camped seven days' march from Shenkuu."
"How big is this army?" Cenoal questioned.
"Thousands," Lunara whispered.
Cenoal turned to the Gnorbu. "I need to know everything. Now."
It was dawn when Emperor Irazen arrived at the balcony where Cenoal had requested he meet him. "I need a ship," Cenoal said, his back turned on the Emperor as he gazed upon the rising sun. "I need supplies for two on the ship that would last a week and I need some gold." He turned toward him, dark circles under his weary blue eyes. He had spent the night studying about the great gem. "I wouldn't ask if I didn't need to."
"I know," the Emperor replied, a touch of sadness in his voice. "Can you at least tell me where you're going?"
"I'm going to search for Neamtal," Cenoal replied. "I'm assuming you know that there's an army on its way?" The Emperor nodded. "Good, then you know I have no choice."
"Why you? Why not anyone else?" Irazen questioned.
"Why not me, and who else?" Cenoal countered.
The Gelert shook his head sadly. "Because you're too young to be going on adventures."
"First of all, I'm twenty-two, and more than old enough," Cenoal responded. "Secondly, I've survived in a thieves' guild for the better part of a decade. I even became a Guild Master, if you must know. I think I can handle restoring an old relic."
The Emperor stared at the Aisha standing before him. "I know who you are," he stated simply.
"Then you should have no problem letting me leave," Cenoal replied.
The Emperor sighed. "I will have a ship prepared immediately. It will take a few hours. You best get some rest."
The Aisha nodded. "Thank you." He made his way down the hall, not bothering to look back.
"Cenoal!" The Aisha's head snapped up and he shook his head, attempting to wake himself up. What was he doing? Oh right, he was riding Shade and they were on their way to the Sky Ship docks. "Cenoal, you almost fell out of the saddle. Are you alright?" the Uni asked.
"Fine," Cenoal mumbled.
"Mime?" Shade said, teasing the Aisha. "Huh, funny. Mimes aren't supposed to talk."
"Leave me alone, Shade. I only slept for two hours earlier," he muttered, not a single word coming out right.
"I am not even going to try translating that." Cenoal somehow managed to turn his head to his left. Aelgar walked beside them, carrying a sack.
"What are you doing here, Aelgar?" Shade asked.
"Unlike Cenoal over here, I didn't stay up all night studying charts and maps," Aelgar replied. "And he is certainly not flying a ship in that state, so I asked the Emperor if he'd allow me to accompany you."
"Wonderful." At least, that's what they thought he said.
"So, you just point the way, and I'll steer the Sky Ship," Aelgar continued as though the sarcasm in Cenoal's voice was indecipherable. Which it was. "My father taught me how to steal one of these thing some time ago. I still remember how."
"Fine, as long as I can sleep," the Aisha mumbled in reply as they climbed the ship's ramp. He fell asleep before they could take off, his mind wandering to the land of dreams...
To be continued...