Din [ Chapter 11a ]


“Insurrection? You are kidding!” Din was incredulous.

“Not at all, my lady. The magistrate of Arda has been quite clear on the matter: Aerealis is rallying its forces and so are Aquaris and Fulgrath. The three cities are a wedge between Arda and Lumina Aka; we must be extremely careful in handling this,” he explained patiently. He was always patient and kind, but Din felt that he had become somewhat condescending, patronizing as of late. Perhaps he had the right of it though: he was many times her age and had seen much more of the world.

These days she felt alone quite often. Sweet Katy had always lent Din her time if she had sorrows, but now she was dead, fallen into her own sword, or so the story went. Sameth had hinted that dissidents of an old Fulgrath family may have been behind that business.

And the quiet, young Kenji? He had left them without a word. He had always been so brilliant, such a bright young man who loved his country. They had been friends! Or so Din had thought… Being only ten years older than her, he had been the closest to actually being her peer. But what friend just left without so much as a word or letter in his wake? She wasn’t sure about anything anymore. Not even Atlas. He had been her rock, her mentor, and the kindest and wisest man Din had ever known. Whenever she was unsure of herself, he would say something that would fill her with confidence. And how he had loved the Middle Lands and in fact all the people of the Great Land. How could it have been then that he had attacked Sameth? Sameth had described it in gruesome detail: how Atlas had wounded him, but eventually succumbed.

Now the halls seemed so empty, here in the five-sided tower. It was an immensely tall pillar of solitude. It had been a home to Din: a warm, caring one; but not anymore.

She had been the youngest of the five keepers – and still was. It had been twelve years ago that Atlas had arrived at the Black Sanctum to take her with him. She later learned that the great wave of fire that had battered against the Ever-Clouded Summit and that had swept over from the Lands of Inferno had been the herald of her coming. Now she was nineteen and expected to do politics. The halls she had spent the last twelve years in had grown empty and cold and all she seemed to do these days was ratify documents she did not understand and listen to reports she did not grasp. There had been priests from the Bonfire Shrine of Lumina Aka, sent to council her on the politics of the Middle Lands and the interests of the city she was expected to uphold, but they had come less and less frequently during the past year and were only staying in contact via correspondence now.

The only interactions with humans she still had were with Sameth and her teachers. One taught her fencing – she liked that –, one tried to teach her magic, but it was difficult for her to get a grasp on the basics, one taught her philosophy, one how to dance, one how to talk smarter, and one how to prance and please (or as he called it: ‘etiquette’).

She used to like going outside, beyond the shadow of the monolithic tower and into the small, wild forest to the south by the shores of the Middle Lake. There she would go exploring for hours and enjoy the view of small animals and sometimes deer, living their busy, yet tranquil lives, but she rarely did that now. Sameth didn’t want her to go about alone since misfortune had struck three of the five keepers already and a guard was near her at all times. She always felt watched, and she always was.

“When will Iskar and Mella be back? They’re the fire Guardians, why aren’t they here guarding me?” she asked Sameth with a pout. She liked Iskar and Mella. Those two had always spent a lot of time with her and taught her a lot about the nature of fire. She felt a certain kindred connection with them and was sure that they shared this feeling. Their absence was the last piece in the mosaic of her misery. They had been sick, like Sameth before them, and afterwards they had grown strangely distant. But right now Din didn’t care! She wanted them back. Anyone was better than the dreadful solitude of these cold walls, and Sameth had never been one for entertaining company. Sure, he was a nice guy, but not the kind that would comprehend a concept as puerile as ‘fun’, and Din was bored; very bored.

“I have already explained this to you, lady Din,” he said patiently. This rigid formality was driving her insane. “Iskar and Mella are on an important mission, just like the other eight Guardians. They are the mightiest mages at our disposal, and now that the ranks of the keepers have been thinned out, a lot of our field-work falls to them. Right now the ten of them are chasing a very dangerous magus, one that could plunge the Middle Lands into chaos if left alone. I believe that if the three unstable cities cannot be contained, he may seize the opportunity to lead them into open war.”

Din inclined her head. “Dangerous like Balsibart?”

Sameth sighed. “I suppose… maybe even more so.”

Din liked the story of Balsibart and she had made Atlas tell it to her many times when he still had been alive. Balsibart had been a powerful magus, often called Balsibart the Bard; probably because it was a bad rhyme and because he liked to play the lute and sing. What he also liked to do was leveling cities and so Atlas went to end his rampage. They fought for five months – not continuously, but in recurring little battles – all over the Great Land, each one leaving some scars on the land that would to this day bear witness to those battles, until finally Atlas defeated Balsibart in the Saltplains and sealed him deep underground. Atlas had never revealed how he had done that, even though Din had nagged him thoroughly. All he ever said was something like he sleeps with the silent waves, but she had not known what that meant then and now she would never know.

“I’m bored,” she accidentally said out loud.

Sameth raised a brow. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Orthilon doing your studies right now?”

She blushed and mumbled something like: “You’re the one that said ‘important news’…” and scurried away towards the library.

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