Author’s Note: So, I was supposed to have released this chapter yesterday. But this one is an important chapter for the events ahead. I had to sleep on it and make sure it was good with a refreshed mind. Sorry for the wait.
The snow fell, dropping on the grey ground; melting with just a touch.
Navari looked back. All he saw was the gaping tunnel of the thick wall, a small light at the end reminding him of the outside; reminding him of the road he once traveled out there in a place devoid human life. He closed his eyes, feeling the pain of the cold air dull, and a sadness overcame him, one derived from the pain of his past. But with one good breath, it welled back deep within him. He had to move forward. He had to do what he needed. It’s the only way. And even as he could feel there were eyes on him, seeing no one to that effect, he felt no fear.
“Hey,” Navari spoke softly. Alaina1AlainaWow's who had been walking stopped and turned around. She seemed antsy. She wants to get this done with.
“What is it?”
“How long exactly till the next scheduled train?”
“I’m not sure. Don’t have the time on me. I had planned it so that we had about ten to twenty minutes to get there once we left the tunnel… Why?”
Navari turned to look at Alaina. He wasn’t worried that whoever was watching them would strike. At the moment, since he could not see them, they must have been hiding somewhere, and surely did not want to be noticed. Not now at least. It’s too open of an area. Trying to get us by surprise? Well, whoever it is, they can’t tell that I can sense them nearby… “If we get on the train, will we be safe? Is the platform safe?”
Alaina looked at Navari weirdly before she sunk in deep thought. For him to be asking this now…. Of course I’ve thought of all this. He has yet to ask me about my plan so far. Why now? What is he so worried about? But Alaina could not doubt the ability Navari had shown her, the way he was able to skirt danger wherever he went. He seemed to sense it in that forest, or appeared to, and that ability probably saved them in regards to the boat…
“For the city we’re heading to, yes. Right now, we’re probably safe only because the Knight of Winters has come. If someone were to make a move now, it would cause a huge problem. Even if it’s Dekaros and his friends in the underworld that are targeting me, they would not so easily want to contend with the Knight of Winters. “The only thing is, the Knight of Winters has his own personal mode of transportation. He will be nowhere near us at the platform, and may not even leave the same time we do. If we go to the platform now, they may put caution to the wind and attack. It would be harder for them to make such movement in the city. There are a lot more eyes there. Now tell me why are you asking this.”
“We’re being followed.”
Alaina looked calmly at Navari. She had not moved, not a flicker on her face could be seen. Although she was young, she had lived in a city fraught with danger. She grew up in constant fear, where even her neighbor could have stabbed her in the back for a meal if she felt like it, and Alaina would not think strange.
“Our best choice is to not go now then.” Alaina finally spoke. “Even if we somehow got on the train before they reached us, which I doubt it, the train just sits there, allowing the general public to board within the last ten minutes right before departure. So whoever it is, they will surely get on. And even if we managed to make sure they didn’t, I doubt they don’t have a contingency set up. It was obvious they lost track of us earlier, or they would have surely acted when we were in the town between the walls. If that’s the case, I doubt they want to put things to chance, not now when we’re so close to the city. Most likely there would be a trap at the exit of the train itself as a last resort. It’s what I would have done.”
“Then what do you suggest?”
“We go into the nearby town area. We evade them until nightfall. That’s when we should act.”
So he’s agreed. So easily. He hasn’t even asked what we should do when it is nightfall. He doubted when it came to the boat, but not this? At least he doesn’t think me incapable then. So, how exactly does he know when danger is coming?
The two waited there, not moving for half an hour. They wanted to stall for enough time as possible. Once they went into the town at either the right or left of them, they would likely be hunted. Every moment they were not being hunted was a better chance that they would survive. Considering how whoever was keeping a close eye on them would not act until the Knight of Winters went through, they were in a good position.
Suddenly a light engine echoed out from the dark tunnel. The small light from the other side vanished. They’re coming. The Knight of Winters will soon pass through and veer from us. We must move now. It was the best time to run. That way, no one would go after them, not with the Knight of Winters right there.
And as the two looked at each other, they broke out in a run towards the town.
No one followed after them, not a soul seen in sight.
The day got colder as the sun rose higher.
“I hate calls like these,” Yillis spoke as she adjusted herself. “Just can’t get used to them.” She sat in the passenger seat in an armored vehicle, the only other seat other than the one for the driver. The vehicle was small and it only had two wide wheels, versatile in traveling across any terrain with ease. This was called a wide-rover.
“And what calls are those?” Serric asked with a slight drawl. He glanced over at the girl at his side. So young. “You’re what? Twenty-two, twenty-five this year? I’m surprised anyone over the age of fifteen hasn’t gotten used to situations like these, much less you at your age.
Yillis frowned, but Serric only chuckled. “You have a lot to get used to in the lower part of the free cities.”
“What makes you say that?” The girl suddenly asked.
“Well, you are awfully young-”
“No, I mean, you make it seem as if I’m not from these parts.” The girl looked towards Serric, and Serric glanced sideways in response. It was a momentary shift in his gaze before he brought his eyes back on the road. That look of hers. It was but a second, but… Serric couldn’t help but feel a shiver run through him, and it had taken all the experience in him to keep it from showing. He lived over three decades in the swamps of the free cities. There was no way my face would betray me after so long, right?
“We’ve arrived.” He finally spoke, not continuing the topic the girl prompted. Serric pulled up to an area off to the side and got out the car. Damn nobles. Think I can’t tell you’re not one of us? So inexperienced. You think us ‘lower beings’ can’t puzzle out a thing or two? It’s just you who is not careful. But he didn’t show what he was thinking on his face. He was not stupid. The girl seemed young, innocent by any regard, but she was still from a powerful family. She was a transfer, and his captain had instructed him to take her on as his partner.
Serric had searched her history as he did with all his partners before going out on the field. But something about her did not sit well with him, and so he looked outside his typical channels when nothing came up. What he found smelled of danger. And though all he got was that she was from a higher classed city, he did not dig deeper to puzzle out more. The only plausible possibility that came to Serric’s mind was that she was a noble. For why she wanted to join his division, he was not keen on, but it did not change his job. I’m too old for this crap.
“People actually live here?” He heard the girl mumbled.
“Yes,” Serric said, and moved on without paying much attention to the girl. The street they drove into was crowded with houses. They were small, and made of a subpar stone, one that could not possibly stay much of the chill; and at the moment small silver globes surrounded one of those houses. Serric and Yillis looked around. A few other white steel rovers were in the area, the letters F.A.L.E etched deeply into their sides. I was called here for a burglary. But there are way too many people here for one, especially for a place like this. Not including the officers, I count at least four detectives that I can see, and that’s just in the open area.
“What do we got here?” Serric asked an armored soldier dressed in black gear, the man’s face covered in a half mask and a pair of sleek black goggle. He stood next to a silver globe. It hummed slightly as it shined with an eerie blue light. The soldier turned to Serric, “I.D.”
Serric grimaced. Different voice. What happened to Exix? He was used to a set flow of things, but lately, more and more new folk were coming to his small division in the towns near the wall. At first, he was happy to get more people. With more people, they naturally also obtained more supplies. But soon Serric was beginning to feel something was off. It was as if they were taking over, and now as he went to crime scenes, he had to show his I.D. as more and more did not know him.
Serric reached into his cloak slowly and pulled out a slim white card with the letters F.A.L.E. written on it in blue. Yillis did the same.
“See for yourself.” The soldier finally said.
Serric nodded, not wanting to spend much more time with the man. He was coarse and off-putting. In fact, all the new staff was. But as soon as Serric walked inside, he froze, and a chill seemed to linger and swim down to the deepest pit inside of him.
The roof was open- collapsed, a gaping hole running through from the second floor to the first. And as the light spilled through to the dark house, snowflakes falling, two people stood still. They had no life in their eyes, their bodies emaciated to the point of bone, and a layer of frost built up on the tops of their heads and shoulders; not a drop of blood to be seen.
Serric sucked in a cool breath.
“Yes, Flesh Eaters.”
Serric jumped, taking a look at another side of the room. Sitting down in a chair, in one of the darker corners of the room, as if the two bodies were not even there, a woman sat smoking a pipe. Her hair was grey and long, but she still looked to be in her early forties, her eyes dark and calm. “Either Flesh Eaters, or someone who wants us to believe we have Flesh Eaters.”
“And you are?” Serric’s face was pale. He knew all too well the consequences of this. Regardless of whether it was truly Flesh Eaters or not, it would be mayhem if there was even rumor that those things had breached the wall. Who hasn’t heard the stories of the previous war or the fall of the empire? Crime would rise, the cost of living would grow, even for those who lived in containers and cardboard box; and old men and women would start talking of the past when there was no wall- no semblance of safety to cling to.
The woman stood slowly. She wore a fine collared white jacket with blue circular lines sewn at the cuff. She took out a card, black with a nice sheen, and on it was written F.A.L.E in a gleaming red.
“My name is Nersus, and I will be your new captain.”
Serric breathed in deep. His eyes unconsciously drew away from the woman, the woman who claimed to be his new captain, replacing the old who had not said a word of it before and looked to the two bodies standing in the living room of this small home. Their faces did not show any sign of shock. And to others, their faces may have exuded a feeling of calm. But Serric, he could see the underlying emotion.
Serric’s hand went to the back of his neck at that moment. He lightly touched the rough scar before drawing back his arm.
“I’m not the only detective here, captain. Why have you summoned me?” He said through gritted teeth. I’m really getting annoyed now. Something is going on, and it seems those at the top know about it but are not saying. Why did they replace the captain? Why do I feel as if I’m seeing less and less of my people?
“I called you two over here because of the girl. I want you to process her, and if you can, find out what she knows… She’s been silent all this while.”
“Girl?” Yillis propped up. She spoke for the first time since they entered the room.
“You mean, there was a survivor?” Serric glanced across the room but did not see anyone.
“She’s in the rover outside.” The woman said.“Now go. There is still work to be done. “
Serric Caught the tone. Although it sounded flat, there was a sense of derision in it. She thinks less of me. She knew what I was thinking. Of course, the girl is outside. Why would they keep her here with two dead bodies? But, there was something more than her just catching me glance around. It was then that he realized what was going on. The people of his division were being replaced slowly, easing others into it. But why would they need to do that? They are F.A.L.E. The mystery was confusing him more and more. But he said nothing, turned and was about to step through the door when the captain spoke again. “Oh, and after you do, I want you to take her to Volaris.”
Volaris? That place? Trying to get rid of me too? Serric looked back, sighed, and walked out the door.
A word could be heard as he left, Yillis at his heel.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.