Piece IX

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“Pardon me My Lord… My father… now serves for Soleil?” The news took some time to sink in for Rowan.

        “Aye, you heard right young man.” Lord Grey returned to his seat. He asked Lady Muriel to fill in the details of Greendale raid. According to her, Mire bandits had pillaged the town. They brought the Obsidia to do much of the dirty work for them – killing townsfolk.

         “My mother said, the raiders were after my father,” Rowan said.

      “Mire bandits find it easier to plunder a village or town if they make it subdue to them by killing its leader first,” Lady Muriel said. “While they keep the rest distracted with the monsters.” 

        “Sir Petrarch had valiant comrades to protect him,” Lord Grey said. “That’s why he made it to Soleil. The events broke him. The Land was unprepared for the raid. You have always relied on our reinforcement and reconnaissance.”

       They were interrupted when the vassal’s squire came into the hall. A sheathed broad sword laid on top of the cushion he carried. Lord Grey quickly dismissed him after getting the weapon. “Rowan, commanding elements is against the natural laws but so is the majority of science works. To the ignorant, both products of morphing and science are stupendous. To the knowledgeable, both are simply governed by principles. One craft creates things out of non-physical methods. Another creates with physical methods.” 

        Lord Grey held the sword, sheathed point on the floor. “The Land and nearby kingsdom are in turmoil. I am afraid before the year ends, we shall see war. Rowan, son of Petrarch, your father’s fealty included that all of his sons serve in my army.”

        Lord Grey’s declaration took Rowan aback. When the vassal slightly pulled the sword out of its sheath, Rowan knew he really had no choice. He bent to his knees and swore his loyalty to Lord Grey and Soleil. A kiss on the sword’s blade, sealed his oath.

                                                                                ---

A mountain called Splinters stood tall in front of Verdura, the border between Soleil and The Smokey. Its side nearest to the town proper had long been defaced from former quarrying activities. A few trees sprinkled the vegetation that had just started to crawl back on it. 

       On the opposite side of the abandoned quarry, three figures, mounted on big horses, stood on the lush foothill. A small light ball was their only illumination. Gwendolyn, one of the figures, looked at the direction of the quarry. Soon after, Clover emerged from the bushes, the shards in her hands were glowing no more.

           “You came!” Gwendolyn’s said with a worried tone.

          “I really don’t see any reason why we should bring her along,” Gwendolyn’s male companion said flatly. Clover recognized his voice from last night’s ritual. 

          “I told you, we will need all the help we can get,” Leon said.  

        “Um, excuse me but –” Clover spoke sheepishly at first. “I have questions that need answers and I cannot get those in Soleil.” Water rose from her hand. Two small light balls twisted and turned along with the liquid before forming a dagger. It bore the same design as the miniature sword she made for her brother months ago. “Even if I need travel across towns and cities, I will go. I must find answers. So please, let me join your escape.” Clover handed the dagger to Leon, who handed it over to Doran. 

      Doran, who looked the older than Gwendolyn, threw the weapon into the darkness. They heard a shrill cry shortly after. The dagger flew through the nearby bushes, into a burrow and struck an owlet.

         “Lucky shot!” Doran went down to get his game. 

         “Clover... if you join us –” Gwendolyn did not finish her sentence when Doran interrupted.

      “That was no lucky shot,” Doran came back from the bushes with a wet and bloody dead owlet. Clover’s dagger returned into water as it entered an owl burrow and hit the poor creature with the force of a water ball. Doran took care of the rest. He placed the owlet in one of the pockets of his baggage sack.

        “She broke through the petrichor’s charm. That should give her enough merit to join us.” Leon went down and approached Clover. “Welcome to the band,” he said as they shook hands.

                                                                             ---

Clover mounted on the same horse as Gwendolyn, and the band proceeded into a thicket. While in it, Leon asked Doran to narrate the story of the Wishing Well to the youngest band member as initiation. The eldest member told the tale in a deep, old wise man’s voice. Gwendolyn occasionally filled in the missing details.

         When they reached the end of the thicket, Doran almost finished narrating. The band had stopped behind the last line of trees, hiding in tree shadows. “And that’s the origin of our morphing abilities,” Doran finished in his normal voice and immediately grabbed a water skin.

            “It sounded more like a myth to me,” Clover said.

          “Aye. Time washes down history into myths.” Gwendolyn enclosed the light ball in her fist and it disappeared. 

           “However, I don’t think the craftsman intended the well to be used only for asking wishes.” Gwendolyn and Doran exchanged puzzled looks after hearing Clover.

           Leon turned to Clover, “Do you think morphing is against the natural laws?”

        “What makes one thing natural?” Clover asked. “Is it the inborn trait like a birth mark or physical ability like the lighting up of fireflies? If we consider that, our morphing is natural. We were born with it.”

      Clover earned a nod from Doran. “However, the majority of the human family does not possess this ability. That makes us look different...as if we're diseased,” Clover continued.

        “It’s not the human populace who first called us diseased,” Gwendolyn contradicted and repeated the part of the story wherein the craftsman of the well called the ones with morphing ability, ‘runaways from the natural laws.’ 

            It took a while before Clover answered. “If this wishing well story is true and the craftsman lived in a land before time, I must find this craftsman then and ask for his reasons for calling us runaways.” She earned stifled laughs from her companions. She folded her arms in response, “Until then, our abilities does not violate the natural laws for me.”

        “Doran, cover us.” Leon ended their small talk with an order. The light balls that Doran conjured whizzed around the band in increasing speed. They grew fainter and fainter as they accelerated. “The spotters cannot see us now,” Doran said when the light balls faded into nothingness.

        The band carried on with their journey in silence. Beyond them laid the valley between Splinters and Verdura. White cosmos glowed as moonlight flooded the meadows. 

        Leon would ask Gwendolyn to teach Clover advanced morphing tomorrow at dusk.  He saw her the other day on the river sculpting an impressive glass swan. Though, Clover needs a little more push in her confidence to keep her sculpture’s form intact for longer periods. If she masters morphing well, she will become a formidable foe in the battlefield. He should definitely have her on his side when that happens. 

          Clover’s choice of leaving Soleil echoed irreversible impacts to a multitude’s fate. If she really wants to find all the answers, she should be prepared to peel humankind off of its frivolities and unmask its cunning. When she loses her will to carry on, she must return to the story of the Wishing Well. 

Are the shards’ glow really beacons to freedom?

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