God of Shadow – Chapter 13

The friendly welcome from the guard at the gate clashed with what Adahmri and Sielahiel encountered in the heart of the city. They paused near a large stone building where many well-armed men stood in a semicircle around a large table. They appeared to be looking over large parchments—maps, perhaps? Adahmri couldn’t hear what they were saying, but as he probed their auras, he noted agitation. These men wore gold and white tabards over slender steel breastplates. Their pauldrons, gauntlets, and greaves bore a jagged design, like small fangs surrounding the overlapping edges. One man, wearing a large, faded gold cape, stood out as a superior officer.

It was clear from the many gashes in their armor that these soldiers were hardened from battle, which made the gate’s lack of security even less sensible to Adahmri. He looked at Sielahiel, but she seemed only curious. She hadn’t picked up on the particulars of their appearances. Adahmri turned his attention to their surroundings, noting uneasily that the streets were otherwise empty. There were still no carts or citizenry milling around, no children playing. He didn’t even see a stray dog or cat wandering in search of food. It was as if they had walked into an abandoned city, except for these soldiers who appeared to be in the middle of some kind of military meeting. The building the soldiers gathered before did not have any marks or signage. It could be a residence or a business for all Adahmri could discern.

With a hand on Sielahiel’s elbow, Adahmri guided her forward to step past the group of soldiers. He didn’t want to draw their attention but, given the otherwise empty streets, he was certain they would be spotted. They had only taken a few steps when the officer among them lifted a hand and gestured with two fingers toward them. Three soldiers immediately turned on their heels and swept forward to intercept them. Sielahiel gripped Adahmri’s arm, but he placed a reassuring hand over hers and smiled. The soldiers’ auras were calm, but suspicious, which means they hadn’t likely come to skewer them with the swords that remained sheathed at their belts.

“State your business,” one of the soldiers demanded in a brusque baritone. The other two took up a position on either side of him.

“We’re looking for The Yellow Harp,” Adahmri answered. His voice was quiet and calm, a measure of supplication in his tone. “We only wish to find a place to rest for the night.”

The soldier looked down his broad, crooked nose at the pair. “If you come seeking riches or glory, you will find neither here. The inn rests two blocks east of here. Make haste and don’t linger about the streets. It’s not safe.”

Adahmri hesitated. At his side, Sielahiel looked up at him. This was the sort of thing with which he, as a future god, ought to involve himself, wasn’t it? But something was wrong…

“The guard at the gate didn’t say mention this,” he said slowly. The soldier’s face screwed up into a scowl.

“That’s because he didn’t know,” he pointed more vehemently to the east. “Didn’t you hear the bells? Get inside and stop wasting our time.”

Adahmri made no mention of the fact that he and Sielahiel couldn’t have known the purpose of the bells they had heard and logically had assumed to toll the hour. Still, he lifted his chin and gave the man a fierce look which seemed to startle him. Adahmri’s aura flared around him, invisible to the eye, but easily sensed nonetheless. Hands moved toward weapons and Adahmri stepped in front of Sielahiel.

“Tell me what has happened,” Adahmri said in an authoritative voice that came far more naturally to him than he expected. “I am not here for glory or riches, but I do have a purpose. I would not have come now, just in time for some threat posed to your people, without cause.”

The soldier spat aside angrily but looked torn. At a gesture, the two men flanking him surged forward and seized Adahmri and Sielahiel. The young woman shouted in alarm and tried to wriggle free, but Adahmri offered no struggle. He looked squarely at the soldier standing before him, his senses expanding to take in more information. These people were scared. Whatever had happened had sent them into a panic. Hidden in their homes, parents cowered with their children; men and women alike wept in terror. There were no signs of physical trauma, though. No buildings were marred. No smoke billowed over a ruined structure in the distance. Had this threat not attacked?

The soldiers took Adahmri and Sielahiel toward the gathering of soldiers. The officer with the cape strode forward to meet them, studying Adahmri. Adahmri stared back at him, wondering if he’d made a mistake in demanding anything from these people.

“This kid wants to help us with our problem,” said the soldier they had addressed moments ago. “Adamant he’s here for a reason, and he has a weird way about him.”

“What sort of ‘weird way’ about him?” the officer mused, as if he also sensed the unexplainable presence surrounding this dark-eyed youth.

“My name is Adahmri.” Adahmri stood straighter and stretched his senses as far as he could. As he did so, something struck like a chime in his mind. He turned his head sharply and looked to the west. Something unusual lurked amidst these buildings. It was like a sphere of brilliant light that only his mind could detect. It didn’t seem dangerous, but the object near it held Adahmri’s interest. He was certain of it: his second pearl was here.

His attention returned to the group of soldiers when he realized that they had broken into murmurs of alarm. The ring of steel drew his gaze. The soldiers had armed themselves. He took a step back and lifted his arms defensively but noted that the officer lifted his hand toward his men to stay their blades. He and the officer locked gazes as silence formed between them like a thick cloud.

“What are you, boy?” the officer said in a low, puzzled voice.

“Adahmri,” Sielahiel whispered, alarmed.

Adahmri looked back at her distractedly, and then saw movement out the corner of his eye. He turned his gaze to his hands and stared at the tendrils of shadows which danced from his fingertips. Around them, on the grass, a circle of darkness had formed. Barely noticeable, a translucent sphere surrounded them. Had he created a barrier?

His eyes lifted sharply to return to the officer, but the man did not look angry or frightened. His grizzled face was set in an expression of clear curiosity, and his deep brown eyes studied him with an intense intelligence. This man didn’t fear him, which meant he didn’t assume the worst at the sight of magic. Had he encountered it before?

With a glance at Sielahiel, Adahmri took a deep breath and met the officer’s gaze again. He didn’t have a choice, from what he could see. Perhaps this man would even believe him.

“I am Adahmri,” he said firmly. “I am the son of the gods Soragen and Ariana, and I am here to help you.”

The silence returned.

 

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Jes A. Condrey
Artwork by Jes.

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