An Arch Sage seeks to find a true deity that will save the kingdom from an evil invasion.
|The Gate of Vessels
Thaylus rose from his wooden chair and grabbed his scalp tightly and let out a cry. He shivered in the cold air and veered throughout the gloomy room housing vast amounts of books, scrolls and a few tablets. The old man sat at the table before him and took a book off it and threw against one of the book shelves 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. The burning wicks glowed out from around him about three yards shedding light on a few shelves with books and scrolls. He stared at them from left to right wondering if and when he would find the answer.
He stroked his short grey beard then sat back down and ran his palm down his oval face. The man 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 above him. He felt the arid atmosphere in archives beneath the castle of Solace. With a glance at the corner of a book case, 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 was inevitably caught in the web and the spider quickly immobilized it in white sheets of webbing. It was like Thaylus was seeing 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 what Arch Sage Thaylus believed to be vanity.
The distraught soul looked at his upper reflection in the metal base of the candle stand. He studied his deep dark eyes, white hair and beard that grew just below his jaw. Suddenly he noticed young Prince Edith with his blond curly hair and sea-blue eyes. He stood before the sage holding a large candle. “I had a nightmare. Can I stay here with you?”
Thaylus smiled. “Very well, but only for a little while. Your father would upbraid me if he found you were here.”
The young prince bounced then put his candle on the table then sat next to Thaylus.
“What are you doing Sage Thaylus?” Edith uttered with pursed lips as he looked up at the man next to him.
Thaylus looked down and beheld the young soul in his short 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.
“I’m sorry but no.”
Thaylus continued going through an old scroll for several minutes before he was interrupted by Edith again. “How long have you been down here?”
“I have spent many hours reading through these books and scrolls.” He went back to his reading.
Edith squirmed in his seat and ten minutes later, blurted out another question. “What are you reading about?”
Thaylus frowned at Edith. Then after moments looking at the smile and glistening eyes of the prince, the sage 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 spiraling staircase.
Thaylus yearned for the burning tension to be relieved. He was tired of being the only one to bear his secret. But who could he tell? The dejected man grabbed his candle, stood and trudged to the door. He froze then looked behind him and wondered- Is there any hope? Thaylus went through and walked up the staircase. He ascended and in a few minutes the Arch Sage began walking through the main hall. Torches mounted on the walls subdued the darkness around him. Guards stood along the sides at attention with steady gazes. The man dragged his anguish down the hall and out through the main gate. He stared at the sky full of stars with a waxing moon that ruled the heavenly display. The Arch Sage 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. Next he entered into the commoner’s lands. Passing an alley, he saw a shirtless old man in tattered pants, shivering in the cold night. 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 used to be a servant to a wealthy man. But four days ago, I fell sick and he expelled me from my position.”
“Well, do not fear. I will see to it that you are treated by a physician.” Thaylus helped the man up and brought him out of the ally. “Come with me and I’ll take care of you. What is your name?”
“Come Byron. I’ll make sure you get something to eat and a place to sleep.”
The homeless man was brought inside the castle and into a vacant room. Then a thought crossed Thaylus’ mind. “Would you do me a great service in exchange for me helping you?”
“What could you want from someone like me?”
“I want for you to simply hear something that I am desperate to share.”
The old man looked baffled. “Why would someone like you entrust anything to a poor, disregarded soul as me?”
“You seem an honest soul. It seems only the lowly and meek commoners have such love and integrity to be trusted not to spread the matter.”
Byron looked down then with a sheepish expression, he gave Thaylus his attention. “Very well lord.”
“It involves a dream I had a long time ago. It is something that haunts me to this day.” Thaylus paused and took deep breath. He ran his palm down his face and looked squarely into Byron’s eyes and began. A twinge of pain arose in Thaylus’ stomach as he recalled that dreaded nightmare so long ago.
“I was looking at a vast battlefield where there were these black shadowy mists in human form with burning red eyes. There were scores of them. Their presence brought indescribable fear. When I awoke I tried to think of what these dark figures were and the only thing that I thought of was the Abyssal Army.”
Byron stopped Thaylus in his speech. “What is the Abyssal Army?”
Thaylus was so used to talking of the Abyssal Army with the people of the castle; he forgot commoners didn’t know of them. “They are a powerful, supernatural force that threatens to overtake the whole realm. It would suffice to say no more.” Thaylus ran his palm down his face again. He continued telling what happened all those years ago when he had awakened. “After having the dream, I paced around my room for some time and then went to the spot where the lessons from my teacher Sage Euricle were to begin. As soon as I saw him coming to me, I ran for my wise instructor and told him my dream. He thought it odd that a mere sage’s apprentice could have a vision but he heeded my dream and sought further clarification to Arch Sage Vauntus. But afterwards it was like Euricle had been brainwashed. He rebuked me and said it was just my one doubt and he warned me to tell none else about my dream. Vauntus must have said something to him. No matter what anyone could say, I knew my dream was significant.”
“My word! You believe this to be the future? Would the gods allow such a thing?”
Thaylus looked down and frowned before looking at Byron. “I will tell of my most guarded secret.” He paused. “I do not believe in the gods.”
The man’s face displayed shock. “But why?”
“It is what I have learned from years of thought and experience.” Thaylus exhaled deeply. “Follow me. I will ensure a servant will situate you for the night.”
“Thank you so much for such kindness. I will keep your secret.”
A servant boy gave Byron a bed and also some left over roast duck before he retired.
Speaking of the dreaded dream made bits and fast glimpses of his nightmare surface, robbing him of rest. So he retreated to the archives where he continued to feverishly skim over any book in his archives that might hint to an alternative power that could save them. His hands trembled in anxiousness. He pleaded sheepishly. “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. All that occupied his mind was the coming invasion of the enemy in three days. Could the destruction of everything be near?
Numerous ancient scrolls, books and tablets in the archives written over a thousand years ago, foretold the invasion of the Abyssal Army which was in three days. The Abyssal Army’s time of was mentioned in the well-known prophecies. Yet no likeness was depicted of them. Thalus’ forbearance dwindled further due to his nightmare he had long ago about the day of doom that would devastate the world.
Then Arch Sage Thaylus tried to push the notion out of his mind. He stood quickly. His wooden chair creaked against the stone floor. The cold, smooth base of the candle stand he held was heavy as he approached the staircase. Thaylus heard his boots click on the stone surface with every step going up. 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, why have you been up this late in the archives?”
The aged man tried to hide the torment of his emotions that had built up with every day of his whole life since he had the dream of the kingdom’s doom. The warm feeling of sweat ran down his temples and he pulled the hood of his cloak over his head.
“Hello princess Athinia, I am honored by your presence. Why are you up so late?” Thaylus returned.
“I’m going to the garden. The roses are beautiful in a full moon. What is it that has you so transfixed at this hour?”
“There’s something that has me very curios and interested but I would request that is remain unspoken, if you would allow me the right.”
“Have you been thinking about the attack of the Spirit Wraiths? I myself am concerned. There is nothing to fear thanks to the gods. They will give us the power to defeat them.” She turned about, stopped then addressed Thaylus. “When did the Abyssal Army gain the other name Spirit Wraiths?”
Thaylus’ lips pursed and he looked at her. “That is unknown. Both names are used interchangeably throughout the texts and prophecies of the evil essences.” The sage looked down and stepped forward than raised his eyes. “How do you think the gods will save us.”
She tilted her head and blinked her eyes. “I don’t know. But the gods aided all the seven kingdoms against the army of King Vyprus. How else could we have defeated such a powerful foe?”
“King Vyprus was a strong sorcerer. His enchanted army was barely defeated.”
Athinia frowned slightly. “It was a great sacrifice and our loss grieved my heart.”
“As mine did after the war. May I retire to my chambers princess?”
“Of course, but do not ponder any doubt-about anything. Good night Thaylus.”
Thaylus turned away from her and felt grieved by Solace’s blindness and he would have cried but tears couldn’t express his dread and fear of the doom to come. His head was low as he went to his chambers with his arms drooping at his sides. He wished he could take Athinia and the whole royal house and make them sit at his feet then force them to believe the truth. He loved his kingdom and the idea of the Spirit Wraiths unleashing havoc on the land broke his heart.
The young princess’s blind belief provoked something else within him. He felt sorry for her. The blatant trust in these “gods” by Athinia and all of the royalty of the seven kingdoms would be their undoing. What incited the people to trust in them so adamantly?
The emotionally scarred sage recalled the war with the wizard Vyprus, the realm’s first sole enemy. It was heinously amazing that his small army could rival all the forces of the seven kingdoms. But the fact his armies could even withstand for so many days was because of Vyprus’ powerful magic.
The whole realm gave credit to their infernal gods when it was shear numbers that won the war. Yet the Arch Sage yearned to discover a real deity, a god that was involved in the lives of mankind and showed proof of existence and cared for mortals.
When Thaylus had gone to his room, he took off his cloak and put it on an iron coat hanger and walked to his wide bed and lay down. With so much anxiety in his stomach and fearful pictures of the impending day, sleep came late. In the morning, Thaylus went 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 two overlooked the expanse of the kingdom with the sun peeling over the Northern Mountains. Thaylus came to the king’s side.
The King Trophimus was in a long, red, wool sleeve shirt and a coarse robe that was blue outside and scarlet within. A light breeze ruffled his curly black hair. “It’s beautiful, is it not? And to think, the most powerful foe we have faced will seek to take it for themselves 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 very broad smile. “What a lovely day is it not?”
Thaylus’ stomach turned at his question. “My lord does anything in you raise concern about Spirit Wraiths?”
“The only thing I wonder is how the gods will defeat them.” Trophimus’ dull brown eyes observed Thaylus. “You know, it is good that we had the war with King Vyprus. All of the seven kingdoms are at peace after all of them combined to defeat him.” Trophimus patted Thaylus on the shoulder and chuckled.
“My Lord, why did every generation of ruling houses of the land kept the situation from the citizens and town’s folk?”
“It was decreed 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 Abyssal Army. 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 Abyssal Army are like ghosts but not quite.”
“Who are they ghosts of?”
“That is what makes the Abyssal Army different from ghosts. They don’t have living souls like you and me. ”
Edith frowned and blinked his eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t strive to understand. In a few years you will know what I mean,” said Thaylus.
“Where do they come from?” asked Edith.
“That is a little hard to explain too. They come from another world called the Abyss.”
Edith tilted his head and frowned briefly. “What is it like there?”
“Well, it’s kind of like a place where all your nightmares and loneliness come from. It’s full of badness.”
“What does the Abyssal Army look like?”
Thaylus wished he could tell the prince what he knew from his dream, but he could not because
the king would question how Thaylus knew. “That is a mystery.”
Just as he spoke, 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, they say they’ve made an alliance with the Spirit Wraiths!”
“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 as the chamberlain and Thaylus watched him anxiously.
“My lord?” said Thaylus.
“What? Oh, yes. I don’t 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 immediately. When you’re there, inquire if we may increase trade to their region.”
The king seemed detached from the seriousness of the situation that was indeed strange and horrifying. Yet Thaylus felt it was not his place to council him. The only way to discover the truth was to visit the kingdom that had seemingly turned hostile. Thaylus thought the dire mission was his responsibility as Arch Sage. What kind of trouble awaited the people of Solace and the whole land? If the day of the Army’s siege possibly being less than three days away was true, and the Western Kingdom’s claim to have joined them held merit, Thaylus felt it was all too much to bear. Yet he still felt a fleeting sliver of hope that salvation was possible.