An Arch Sage seeks to find a true deity that will save the kingdom from an evil invasion.
The Gate of Vessels
Written by Jacob Suarez
Thaylus rose from his wooden chair and grabbed his scalp tightly and cried out. He shivered in the coldness of the gloomy room housing vast amounts of books, scrolls and a few tablets. Thaylus sat at the table before him and took off a book and threw against a bookshelf knocking down a few parchments. “Ahh! This is hopeless! The archives are full of written works. It’s like looking for gold amidst deep rock in a dark cave.”
The only sound came from three candles on a silver stand on his desk. The small flames flickered in the drafty, immense room. They glowed around him about three yards illuminating shelves holding books and scrolls. Did any of them hold the answer?
He stroked his short grey beard then sat back down and ran his palm down his oval face. Thaylus lingered silently in anguish. He was the Arch Sage and he felt responsible for finding the knowledge that would save the kingdom of Solace and the whole realm.
Thaylus rubbed his calloused hands together and threw his head back as he looked up at the darkness. The arid atmosphere in archives beneath the castle of Solace added to his lethargy and grief. At the corner of a bookcase, a black widow patiently waited in a glossy web. A large moth fluttered around curiously dotting closer and closer to the sticky snare. The oblivious insect careened into the web and the spider wrapped it in sheets of webbing. Thaylus imagined he witnessed an omen of the dreaded day of impending doom; but unlike like the moth, the royalty of the kingdom of Solace knew of the threat yet chose to be happily ignorant, trusting to be saved by their wretched false gods.
The metal base of the candle stand reflected his deep dark eyes, white hair and short beard.
A small figure with a lit candle emerged in the archive entrance. Prince Edith entered with his blond curly hair and sea-blue eyes. He approached Thaylus and stopped inches from him.”
“I dreamed about monsters. Can I stay with you?”
Thaylus smiled. “Very well, but only for a little while. Your father would upbraid me if he found you here.”
The young prince bounced. He put his candle on the table then sat next to Thaylus.
“What are you doing Sage Thaylus?” Edith uttered with pursed lips.
Thaylus looked at the young soul’s form in his grey cloak. “Searching Edith, searching.”
“Something important. I won’t tell you little Prince.”
“It’s not meant for your ears Prince Edith. Such a thing would vex your mind.”
“Please tell me?” Edith’s eyes widened.
“No. I’m sorry”
Thaylus searched through an old scroll before Edith interrupted again. “How long have you been down here?”
“I have spent hours reading many books and scrolls.” He read on.
Edith squirmed in his seat and ten minutes later, blurted out another question. “What are you reading?” asked Edith. He smiled broadly with glistening eyes.
Thaylus smiled back. “You’re an inquisitive child Edith. It would only bore you. Now off to bed.”
“Yes Sage Thaylus,” he said as he sulked off his chair. After taking his candle, he walked across the archives, to a door and up a spiral staircase.
Thaylus yearned for relief from the burning burden. He grew tired bearing his secret. But who could he tell? Thaylus grabbed his candle, stood and trudged to the staircase door. He froze then looked behind him and wondered- Is there any hope?
He ascended the steps and soon the Arch Sage reached the main hall. Torches mounted on the walls flickered like dancing spirits. Guards stood along the sides at attention with steady gazes. Thaylus dragged his anguish down the hall and outside the main gate. The sky shined with stars and a waxing moon ruled the heavens.
Thaylus walked across the royal courtyard filled with gardens and porcelain fountains made in the shapes of birds or clever designs with spouts arrayed like blooming flowers. He entered the commoner’s lands, passing an alley. A shirtless old man in tattered pants, shivered in the cold night with his arms around himself. Thaylus took off the cloak he was wearing and put it over the poor soul.
“Oh, thank you sage!” said the old man.
“How long have you been this way?”
“I served a baron. But four days ago, I fell sick and he expelled me from my position.”
“Well, do not fear. I will see a physician treats you.” Thaylus helped the man up and brought him out of the ally. “What is your name?”
“Come Byron. I’ll make sure you get something to eat and a place to sleep.”
Thaylus brought Byron to a vacant room within the castle.
“Thank you so much for such kindness,” said Byron.
A servant boy gave Byron a bed and some left-over roast duck before he retired.
Thaylus resorted to his bed within his room but bits and fast glimpses of his nightmare he had as a teenager. He recalled his bad dream where he saw thousands of Realm Dwellers wreaking havoc on the kingdoms. Thaylus vividly saw their appearance: dark shadowy forms in mist-like cloaks with burning red eyes.
He retreated to the archives where he feverishly skimmed over any book that might hint to an alternative power that could save them. His tightened fists shook as he clenched his eyes shut.
He pleaded with protruded, quivering lips and raised eyebrows. “Oh, where are you?! Please be somewhere!” After hours of searching through countless scrolls and books, he took the one before him and slammed it shut. Fear drove him almost to a breaking point in his sanity. The coming invasion of the Realm Dwellers in three days put a stabbing knot in his stomach. Could the destruction of everything be near?
Thaylus walked to a bookcase and took out a book. He took it and opened it as he sat on his chair at the table.
His body tensed up and his eyes widened. Thaylus looked at the writing with a large magnifying glass and gasped. The text was in the dead language of Pyrithia. He read only three records in the old tongue.
Thaylus could barely read a small unfaded part at the front page.
He jumped from his wooden chair that creaked against the stone floor with book in hand. The cold, smooth base of the candle stand he held was heavy as he approached the staircase. His boots clicked on the stone surface with every step.
He entered the main hall with low vaulted ceilings that had pillars that arched outward on the ceiling like the arms of a star. A fair woman with long, deep, black hair and a fair face beautified with sea blue eyes walked to him.
“Sage Thaylus, what keeps you up so late?”
Thaylus’ heart throbbed, and he had a tight knot in his stomach. His mind focused on one thing as eagerness gripped his gullet. “I request that to be dismissed. I am quite tired.”
“I’m going to the garden. The roses are beautiful in a full moon.”
Thaylus’ body twitched and his chest swelled to get away.
“May I retire to my chambers princess?”
“Of course, but do not ponder any doubt-about anything. Good night Thaylus.”
Thaylus turned away and his mind returned to the issue at hand. Solace’s blindness made him sad. He would have cried but tears could not express his sadness and fear of the coming doom. He wished he could take Athinia and the whole royal house and make them sit at his feet then force them to realize their false gods made of wood, stone and metal would not save them. He loved his kingdom and the idea of the Realm Dwellers unleashing havoc on the land broke his heart.
Thaylus forced his mind back to his possible ray of hope that lay within the book. He rushed to the Nobleman’s quarters and sat at a wooden chair next to a door. It would be about five hours until dawn, when his young friend Brythan would emerge from the door. He clasped his hands and put them to his chin. Thaylus knee bounced as the rush of blood exacerbated his excitement.
An hour later he threw back his head and ran his palm down his face. And inhaled as his breath trembled from his throbbing heart. Another hour later and he began to nod off. As his excited state leveled, once again he returned to his object of fear and sadness.
Thaylus fell asleep as his body drooped to the side. Only the hope in the book gave him enough relief to relax and rest. He almost fell of his seat as Brythan’s door creaked open.
“Arch Sage Thaylus, do you need me for anything?” Brythan said with a raised eyebrow and a slight frown.
“Yes, I want to show you this,” Thaylus said jumping from his seat with the book under his arm. “May I come in?”
“Of course,” Brythan said as he frowned.
“You have better knowledge of the Pyrithian language. I have this to show you.” Thaylus put the book on a polished wooden desk and opened it. “Blast! I forgot my magnifying glass!”
“I have one.” Thaylus pulled out a magnifying glass from a small cupboard. “What do you have to show me?”
“I can only read part of the Pyrithian text. It says something about the Realm Dwellers.” Thaylus left out the part that had excited him. “Can you make any more of this out?” asked Thaylus.
Brythan leaned over and pulled at his chin as he read the Pyrithian passage. “It’s quite faded.” He straightened himself. “Strange, it hints at some single deity that will save the world from the Realm Dwellers.” Brythan peered at the passage again. “This god…lives in a place called the Gate of Vessels.”
“I don’t know what think of it,” said Thaylus.”
“Perhaps we should consult priest Kyan. He is adequately versed in Pyrithian.”
Thaylus stomach congealed within him. Nothing would come from a priest of a false god. He would disavow any mention of another deity no matter how significant. Thaylus would not relent for his friend’s sake. Thaylus would speak his mind. The burning desire of Thaylus to tell another rose. He could think of no one better than Brythan. There remained a risk.
Thaylus and Brythan walked from the noblemen’s quarters to the Garden of The Gods. They walked down a cobblestone path past Nixus, god of knowledge. The stone figure towered nine feet tall. It had an ox’s body and the head of a jackal. Two ruby pieces made the eyes and the entire figure gleamed with a polished surface that reflected the trees and flowers around it.
Thaylus and Brythan passed the statue on their left on their way to Kyan, priest of Nixus. Thaylus and Brythan walked into a wide mosque. Kyan prostrated himself before a smaller likeness of god of knowledge. Thaylus looked away and scowled-a man worshiping a piece of stone! How abominable!
“Priest Kyan, we need your wisdom,” said Brythan as he put the book on a long table. “This ancient Pyrithian text has both of us at a loss.”
Kyan looked at the worn page and read silently. He placed the magnifying glass down and chuckled. “I believe there is no single all powerful being. I am curious about what it says about the Realm Dwellers. This god is obviously one among many albeit a forgotten deity.”
Thaylus shook his head and exhaled. “There must be more to it. I believe the Pyrithians were the wisest civilization to exist.”
“Do you imply you thin this to be true?” asked Kyan as he frowned tightly.
“Perhaps there is,” said Thaylus.
“You challenge my wisdom?”
“And if I do?”
“Kyan’s face reddened and he slammed the table with his fist. “How dare you! Do not think your title of Arch Sage proves your opinion!”
“Neither does your wretched priesthood!” Thaylus glared at Kyan and he reeled back with wide eyes.
“I will see the king strips you of your place for this outrage!”
“Hmph! That would be preferable to bowing to stone!”
“Thaylus calm down,” said Brythan as he pleaded with his hands.
“Your blasphemous words will get you punished by Nixus!”
Thaylus pushed Kyan aside and heaved with all his might and pushed the stone god to the ground as it crumbled to pieces.
“Sacrilege! You’ll pay for this!” Kyan screamed as he ran out of the synagogue.
“Thaylus what have you done!”
“Do you think I will get punished by Nixus?”
“That does not matter. You should not have hurt the man’s belief.”
“Do you believe in the god?”
“It is something I have been taught from my childhood. How could I break such a long adherence?”
“That is no answer,” said Thaylus breathing heavily in with clenched teeth.
Brythan lowered his head. “Thaylus I…”
Thaylus turned and stormed off with his cloak flailing after him. He trudged out of the garden and to the west wing where the sage’s quarters lay and entered his room. He plopped onto a chair in front of his book covered desk.
Thaylus ran his palm down his face and deeply exhaled. “I have to relax. I hate the how anger feels.” Thaylus understood Brythan may see any truth. His last hesitant words showed he did not strongly conform to the gods of Solace.
“I think a good viewpoint of the kingdom would do well.” Thaylus said.
He walked to the king’s favorite place to enjoy the sunrise. There, the king leaned against a white stone border in the highest tower balcony with ten-year-old son Prince Edith beside him. The expanse of the kingdom stretched for miles as the sun peeled over the Northern Mountains. Thaylus came to the king’s side.
The King Trophimus wore a long, red, wool sleeve shirt and a coarse robe with blue outside and scarlet within. A light breeze ruffled his curly blond hair. “It’s beautiful, is it not? And to think, the most powerful foe we have faced will seek to take it in three days,” the king said in a drifting voice. “Yet we can rest assured that the gods will deliver us,” he confirmed with a light sigh and broad smile.
Thaylus’ stomach turned. “My lord does anything in you raise concern about the Realm Dwellers?”
“The only thing I wonder is how the gods will defeat them.” Trophimus’ dull brown eyes observed Thaylus. “Do you recall the war with the wizard King Vyprus?”
“Yes. Why do you bring it up lord?”
After the victory, wrought by the gods, all of the seven kingdoms are at peace after they combined to defeat him.” Trophimus patted Thaylus on the shoulder and chuckled.
“My Lord, why did every generation of ruling houses of the land keep the Realm Dwellers from the citizens and town’s folk?”
“We decreed it because there is no need to concern them with the attack up to this point. It may distract them from their normal lives. Besides, what good would it do to tell them?” The king took in a deep breath and patted his chest. “Ah, our future is an ensured blessing.”
Prince Edith spoke up. “Father, everyone keeps talking about the Realm Dwellers. What is it?”
“Oh, you shouldn’t worry. It would probably give you nightmares.”
“Please father? Please?”
“You’ve always had a persistent curiosity of things. I know better than trying to quench it. Thaylus will explain.”
Edith peered up at the sage who explained. Thaylus put two gentle hands on Edith’s shoulders. “The Realm Dwellers are like ghosts but not quite.”
“Who are they ghosts of?”
“That is what makes Realm Dwellers different from ghosts. They do not have living souls like you and me. They come from another world called the Abyss.”
“What is it like?” asked Edith with a bounce.
“Well, it’s kind of like a place where all your nightmares and loneliness come from. It’s full of badness.”
“What do the Realm Dwellers look like?”
Thaylus knew painting a picture of them in Edith’s mind would scare him. “That is something for when you get older.”
A chamberlain rushed from behind them with a pale face and wide glossy eyes. “Sire, I have dire news concerning the Western Kingdom!”
“What is it? Calm down man,” the startled king ordered.
The chamberlain breathed heavily. “The Western Kingdom says they’ve made an alliance with the Realm Dwellers!”
“Well that can’t be true. They are still in the Abyss.” Trophimus mused.
Thaylus’ eyes widened. “My lord, we should go to king Nephaal and see if this is true.”
“This is obviously a mere rumor. The Western Kingdom would have no reason to do so.” King Trophimus addressed the chamberlain. “Who told you this?”
“A note with the crest of the Western Kingdom was lying at the city gate. I just found it.”
Trophimus frowned as he took the note and read it. “Hmm…interesting. The situation is baffling. I wonder if any of the other kingdoms have received the same message.” He walked away and slowly paced in a circle. He did so for five minutes.
“My lord?” said Thaylus.
“What? Oh, yes. I do not know what to make of this. What do you think Thaylus?”
“Let me go and find out what this entails.”
“Very well. You may leave. When you arrive there, inquire if we may increase trade to their region.”
The king acted detached from the seriousness of the strange and horrifying situation. Thaylus believed making the king see the dire situation would prove futile and offensive. The only way to discover the truth remained to visit the kingdom that had seemingly turned hostile. The dire mission seemed his responsibility as Arch Sage. What kind of trouble awaited the people of Solace and the whole land? What if the day of the Realm Dwellers’ siege possibly proved less than three days held truth? Thaylus’ head throbbed. Is there any hope?