A man anguishes over a dire supernatural catastrophe only he realizes.
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 the sadness. 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 what Arch Sage Thaylus believed to be vanity.
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 heavenly display.
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 surfaced, robbing him of rest. 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 enemy in three days put a stabbing knot in his stomach. 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 Realm Dwellers in three days. Well-known prophecies told of their time of arrival. But the pages of the books and scrolls portrayed no pictures of the Realm Dwellers. Thaylus’ forbearance dwindled further from his nightmare he had long ago about their shadowy appearance and the day of doom that would devastate the world.
Arch Sage Thaylus tried to push the notion out of his mind. He jumped from his wooden chair that creaked against the stone floor. 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 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. What keeps you up so late?” Thaylus returned.
“I’m going to the garden. The roses are beautiful in a full moon. What is your reason?”
“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 Realm Dwellers? I am concerned. There is nothing to fear thanks to the gods. They will give us the power to defeat them.”
Thaylus’ lips pursed and he blinked his eyes. The sage lowered his head and stepped forward than raised his eyes. “How do you think the gods will save us?”
Athinia tilted her head and smiled. “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 grieves 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 and felt grieved by Solace’s blindness and he would have cried but tears could not express his sadness and fear of the coming doom. His head was low as he trudged 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 Realm Dwellers 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 the royalty of the seven kingdoms would prove their undoing. What incited the people to trust in them so adamantly?
Thaylus’ stomach congealed, and his heart ached as he recalled the war with the wizard Vyprus, the realm’s first sole enemy. It remained a heinous, amazing thing 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 sheer numbers won the war. The Arch Sage yearned to discover a real deity, a god that showed involvement in the lives of mankind and showed proof of existence and cared for mortals.
Thaylus took off his cloak and put it on an iron coat hanger and walked to his wide bed and lay down. With so much tightness in his stomach and fearful pictures of the impending day, sleep came late. In the morning, Thaylus 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. “You know, it is good that we had the war with King Vyprus. 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 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 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 wished he could tell the prince their appearance from his dream. “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 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 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? What if the day of the Realm Dwellers siege possibly being less than three days held truth? Thaylus’ head throbbed. Is there any hope?