The Cenoal Chapters: Duties Reclaimed - Part Five
Cenoal emerged from below deck and stared about him. They were sailing near Altador now, the Sky Ship so much faster than any Uni, even Shade. Aelgar had taken the wheel and Shade was lounging around near the mast. The ship the Emperor had given them was sleek and small enough to be piloted by only one if need be. Its sails were made of the strongest canvass and its haul and decks were from the sturdiest woods. No expense was spared. "Oh, this is great," Cenoal thought. "Now we're bound to be noticed."
"Hey, Cenoal!" Aelgar called. "Sleep well?"
"Well enough." Cenoal would never admit to the splitting headache. He looked up. He had been asleep for most of the morning and it was now nearing noon. "Are we still on course?"
"Yep," Aelgar replied. "I just followed this map you showed me." He held up the scroll.
"Great," Cenoal stated. "Well, tell me if anything interesting..." He stopped there, staring wide-eyed at the kingdom before them.
The city had lost its glow, the walls stained by the blackened ashes of fire. Billowing clouds of smoke rose into the afternoon sky and the air of magic was now nothing but the smell of burning on the winds. Altador was in ruins. Cenoal turned his back on the city, not wishing to see it as such.
"Remember, we need to change course as soon as the mountains give way to desert," he said. "Don't go near the kingdom. There's no knowing what's in there now."
Aelgar nodded grimly and steered them away from the darkened City of the Sun...
On the third day they were over the desert and sailing above the blue waters of the ocean. Cenoal was at the wheel, his mind drifting as he watched the seas.
"Morning, Cenoal!" Aelgar greeted as he emerged from below deck. "Anything new?"
"Well, there's a new shade of blue in the ocean," the Aisha replied, "but then again, that may be me hallucinating after staring at it for so long."
Aelgar laughed. "Oh come now, stop complaining. It's a beautiful ocean."
Cenoal smirked as he gazed at the expanse of blue. The sun peered at him from over the horizon, turning the sky into a myriad of colors. "I guess it is, huh?" He looked down guiltily. "By the way, I changed course a bit. I just... need to check on something."
Aelgar looked skeptical. "Cenoal, you realize we need to find this thing and get back ASAP, right?"
Cenoal clung to the pendant that hung at his chest. "I know," he replied, "but this is really important."
"Trust him, Aelgar," Shade stated as he rose from where he lay beside the mast. "Cenoal doesn't do anything unless it needs to be done."
Cenoal looked on into the horizon, not really paying heed to Shade or Aelgar. Finally he saw what he was looking for – a bunch of tiny dots on the horizon. "We're here..."
Sir Tormund of Meridell sat at a table with a number of other knights, telling stories and generally trying to find a happy point in the midst of boredom. It was Sir Emberson's turn. "And he says, 'I can't! I'm insane!'" The Grarrl laughed heartily and his comrades chuckled so as not to insult him.
Tor stared on, toward the horizon and toward an approaching speck within it. It was a Shenkuuvian Sky Ship. Tor's eyes widened and he ran. He wasn't thinking much of what he would do if the occupants weren't friendly. After months of being stranded, one couldn't blame him. His feet carried him far from the camp and toward the shore, where the ship was just being brought down. Out of breath, he could barely speak.
An Aisha jumped down from the ship, stared at him, and chuckled. "Sir Tormund, what brings you here on this fine day?"
Tor knew this Aisha. "Kenoal?"
The Aisha coughed. "Cenoal," he corrected. "Sen'o-al. Why does everyone get that wrong?"
Tor just nodded. "What? How?" He stared at the ship. "Wah??"
Cenoal turned serious. "Is everyone alright? Did the ship reach you?"
"What ship?" Tor asked.
A Uni flew down from the deck. "The one that came to find you and to take you all prisoner?" he offered.
Tor shook his head. "Nothing interesting has happened since you two left with the princess." He glanced at the ship. "Where is she anyway?"
"Long story," Cenoal replied. "Unfortunately, I have no time to tell you right now. I only came to see if there was anyone from Meridell left. Now that I know that you're all fine..."
"Wait, you're leaving?!" Tor exclaimed.
"We have to find the gem, Water," Cenoal explained. "I need it to save my-" He stopped himself. "I need it to save Shenkuu."
"Welrin might know more," Tor offered.
At that moment, an old Lenny emerged from the forest. Welrin had been on one of his long walks and had heard all the commotion from afar. He glanced at the ship, then at Cenoal, and smiled. "It's good to see you again, Cenoal. What brings you here?"
"Welrin, do you know anything about the whereabouts of the gem, Water?" Cenoal asked urgently.
"Of course," he replied. The Lenny spread his wings to indicate the surrounding area. "Neamtal can be found here."
Cenoal stared in shock. "What? Where?!"
Welrin chuckled. "My dear boy, why do you think it is that you were taught about this place?"
Cenoal just stood there, confused. "I always thought it was just for history lessons."
Welrin shook his head. "No, no, no. You were told because these islands are where Neamtal can be remade!"
Cenoal's eyes grew wide. "The caves. The caves the old kings used for mining! That explains the name of these islands."
"Precisely," Welrin replied. "The caves were lost when most of the islands sank. Now it is time for them to be found again..."
"Ok, I do NOT get this," Aelgar protested as they landed on the other side of the island. "How exactly do you know the gem is here?"
Cenoal held up the amulet, its light beginning to glow. "It's here somewhere, Aelgar. I read on the map it was near the Imperial Trove, but I never thought it would actually be under it."
"You lost me at Imperial," Shade stated.
"The Imperial Trove, that's what they call this place," Cenoal explained. He looked about the beach. "This was where Crystal's swords changed their words to runes."
Shade and Aelgar exchanged skeptical glances. Cenoal started to wade away from shore. "Cenoal, what do you think you're doing?" Shade questioned.
Then, a few feet away, he stumbled and disappeared under the waves. The Uni and the Cybunny rushed in, only to see the Aisha bob back up. "The shore stops suddenly here," he stated. "I'm going under."
"Wait, what? Cenoal!"
But Cenoal couldn't hear Aelgar after that. He dived and began to swim deeper and deeper, feeling the rock wall as he went, straining to see with only the flickering of the gem in his hand to guide him. Finally he spotted it – a massive hole in the side of the cliff. He swam forward, feeling his way through the darkness of the tunnel. But then the gem's light grew brighter. He was able to see ahead of him the endless tunnel and ragged walls. Jewels and gold articles littered the floor of the cave and the thief inside him almost made him take a few with him. But the need for haste forced him on.
After a few minutes, Cenoal began to wonder why he wasn't struggling for breath. He wasn't craving the air. He had been under the sea for much longer than should be possible for one holding his breath. Then he realized that he wasn't holding his breath. He was breathing easily as though he were on land. But how was such a thing possible? "Faerie magic," he thought. "Only that could explain this."
A bright blue light appeared ahead and he followed it. He emerged in an underwater cavern, its walls lined with hundreds of sapphires. They reflected the light from the amulet, casting a beautiful glow upon the cavern. He was floating in a large pool at the cavern's center. "Whoa," he breathed.
"This cavern has not been seen by your kind's eyes in centuries." Cenoal turned to see a water faerie sitting atop the boulder in the middle of the pool. She shared Morning's lilac eyes. Long, ocean blue hair fell to the water and her tail was a deep blue. "What are you doing here, Alceon?"
Cenoal winced. "That isn't my name," he stated.
The faerie laughed. "Very well, thief," she said. "Tell me why you are here."
Cenoal held up his pendant. "Neamtal must be remade," he stated.
The faerie's eyes narrowed. "Neamtal was unmade because of what happened," she hissed. "A power-hungry ruler got his hands on it because of Shenkuu's inability to protect it. Do not think I will allow such disaster to occur again."
"But Shenkuu needs it, Milady!" Cenoal exclaimed. "I give you my word it will be protected."
"But it will never be protected well enough," she replied. She waved a hand in the air as though annoyed. "It was unmade for a reason."
"PLEASE!" Cenoal begged. "I will not stand by and watch my-" He stopped again, not willing to complete the thought.
"You are not willing to watch YOUR people suffer," the faerie finished for him. "And yet you cannot even call them your own."
"They are not mine to rule!" Cenoal argued.
"They are your responsibility whether you like it or not!" she practically yelled back. "And the fact that you turned your back on them once saddens me. Do not make the same mistake now."
Cenoal looked her in the eye. "I am here, am I not?"
"There are things at work that you cannot understand," she replied, but stared at the water as though reconsidering. "My sister was mistaken in her thinking that Light should be kept hidden from the world." The water faerie shook her head sadly. "Perhaps now I am wrong for keeping Neamtal from Shenkuu's prince."
She raised her hand and pale blue light streamed from her fingertips. The amulet was engulfed in blinding magic and Cenoal had to shield his eyes. "I cannot give you Neamtal's full power, but I can give you enough. It will last five years, Cenoal. Use the seasons wisely..."
Cenoal coughed seawater and felt coarse sand on his cheek. Seaweed had somehow entangled itself in his hair and his muscles ached with weariness. He coughed again and tried to push himself up. His arms gave way and he fell, groaning.
"CENOAL?!" The Aisha heard hurried footsteps approaching and strained to turn his head. He couldn't. He saw boots as he was turned over roughly. He stared into the face of a white Cybunny. "You're alive," he breathed. "Oh thank goodness, you're alive!" The Aisha blacked out before Aelgar could say any more.
Voices drifted through the air as Cenoal came to his senses. Murmurs and a whispered conversation Cenoal could barely even begin to understand. He turned his head, trying to hear a little better. But then something caught his eye.
A bright blue gem sat on the table. It was small, perhaps the size of a large marble, and smooth as glass. It was tear-shaped and the blue was deep and oceanic, the color of the Faerie's hair. Was she even real? Cenoal groaned as his head throbbed, bringing in a smiling old Lenny. "Well, it is good to see you better again," he stated.
"What happened?" Cenoal questioned.
"You've been out for two days, Cen," Aelgar replied, stepping into the room. "I don't know what you did down there for a whole day, but you were completely exhausted when you came up."
"Two days?!" Cenoal would have leapt out of bed had it not been for Sensei Welrin's restraining wing. "And, I was only down there for a few minutes!"
"You were gone for a day, Cenoal. Perhaps the cavern was filled with so much magic that you didn't notice. Now, you must rest," Welrin ordered.
"I need to get back to Shenkuu!" the Aisha exclaimed, struggling against the feeble-looking Lenny. Welrin, however, was much stronger than he seemed.
"Reinforcements are already on their way," Aelgar put in. "In fact, they're probably already there thanks to the ships Crystal-"
Cenoal ceased struggling. "Crystal?" he demanded, cutting Aelgar off. "Crystal was here?! Why wasn't I woken up?"
"Cenoal, you were EXHAUSTED," Aelgar explained. "A marching band couldn't wake you up."
The Aisha glared at him. "We're leaving," he said. "Now."
Welrin stepped back and sighed. "I might as well accompany you," the Lenny stated. "I will need to keep an eye on the young Imperial and there are no longer any other ships departing."
"When did they leave?" Cenoal questioned, grabbing his saber and the gem from the table. "And why didn't they bring this?" He held up the pearl-like stone.
Aelgar stared at the gem. "Whoa. Where'd you get THAT?!"
"It was on the table," Cenoal replied.
"It was not there earlier," Welrin interjected.
Cenoal shook his head. "That makes no sense." He paused a moment. "You know what, never mind! Call Shade. We're leaving immediately." The Aisha stood, wincing as his muscles and bones protested, and made his way out of the hut.
Aelgar and Welrin followed suit. "Um, Shade isn't here right now, Cenoal," the Cybunny said. "He went with Crystal."
Cenoal took a moment to face the Cybunny. "What, did the entire ISLAND leave for Shenkuu?" He then realized that they were standing in the middle of a deserted village the Meridellans had pulled together during their stay. Aelgar shrugged and the Aisha threw his hands to his face. "Wonderful. I'm the only one who can bring the mists back and I'm late..."
To be continued...