Chapter 21 (first draft)
Part 3 of 3
Cirrus was resting in the shade of the ship’s sails, resting and watching as the island came closer, and the white city became real. The bruises and minor cuts on his torso area were already beginning to heal, and he knew they would be absent long before he woke the next morning. Still, the soreness was more than he was used to after sparring. Much worse. The skills of Arturus Mariner had been incredible, to say the least. Never had he felt such a powerful need for improvement. There was another level to reach, perhaps more than one, and Cirrus would reach it before the end. That was the secret oath he made himself on that day, reflecting over the practice duel.
More than the exchanges of the spar itself fuelled his will to ascend beyond his current capabilities as a warrior. He knew Arturus did not use a one-handed blade like the ones they used. In fact, although Cirrus chose to use two blades, with small wrist shields on each, he had been given the slight initial advantage in their match. Arturus chose a two handed, wide blade as his choice weapon in true battle. His skills, as amazing as they were in their preview spar, would increase significantly when using his favoured weapon. Cirrus took that to mean his chances were thin that he could beat any of the other ten Lieutenants in the ceremonies to come.
Then Arturus spoke, standing next to him. Cirrus had been too deep in thought to notice his approach. “If there is one point of advice I can give you, brother, it is to not underestimate yourself. You will fare well in the ceremonies. I am certain. First you will face Jastos, the 10th. Do not be fooled by his reputation, the match is not a real battle to the death, therefore you will surely defeat him. He will try, but his blood-lust will be absent. That man is insane. Anyway, do not let the first victory get to your head. Each test gets more difficult, and due to our individual styles, in some matches you will have advantages, in some disadvantages. And, be prepared to have one or two bouts where you will be defeated utterly. Do not allow humiliation to halt your progress. Lastly, clear your nerves and try your absolute best with the 1st, Otannus. Do not just be grateful for the opportunity. Otherwise, he will humiliate you. Now, the ship requires my full attention. If we are unable to speak like this again today, I will see you around.”
Arturus then walked off. When he did pass by afterwards, it was to move from one part of the ship to another, and he paid no attention Cirrus.
Islos was closing in, a wide man-made sea wall of bright white stone surrounded the city’s harbour. They entered through an opening in the wall, tall and wide enough to allow two large ships to enter and exit together. No other ship passed by as they passed through and approached land.
Right away, Cirrus saw what the other man had been talking about. The city was far different than Aquos. Each structure was immaculate, and uniquely made. All were of the same white stone, yet in each there were designs carved into areas along the upper half of walls, and statues and sculptures were everywhere, many of the white stone yet many more were of different colours. Some sculptures flowed with the buildings themselves, jutting out of arches and above entryways, some twisting around columns, while others stood alone and were very tall in height.
Yet the city itself, and the harbour they now were almost touching, was relatively small. Much smaller than Aquos. No walls as there were in the other city, besides on the side nearest the sea. No walls needed, the island was empty. Walls were first built around their newer cities on the large landmass as a simple precaution against the unknown of what dwelt in the new world.
A small delegation was waiting for them to tie the ship at the harbour. Old men to welcome their arrival and, Cirrus thought, to deal with the necessary formalities. They had the look of retired soldiers.
When the plank board dropped on the stone dock, Cirrus walked off to meet them. The 5th was busy with the ship, and from how he had spoken earlier, Cirrus determined they would be parting ways.
The closest man on the other side bowed, the other two smiling. “Cirrus of Aquos, welcome!” The others bowed with him.
Cirrus stood there, entirely unsure what to do, or say. He bowed slightly, then waited.
“To the palace grounds, Tarrus awaits,” the front man said. Then he beckoned him to follow with a smile, and all three old men turned and walked toward the city. It was then Cirrus saw what must have been the palace, a wide, low building, yet it stood higher than the rest, on a short hill or mound of some sort.
He followed them.
* * *
(end of chapter)
© 2013 FOTS Fantasy