16 The Fallen of Karune

Three days had passed since Brother Sammil first arrived in Weshaven. Oona Sera, ruler and host, ushered him into Domus Caelum, the gathering hall. Sammil recalled how he shaded his eyes when he entered. White walls and ceilings reflected light in every direction.

Oona led the way down a corridor, with an airy surcote or cape flowing behind her. Following close by, Sammil felt the fabric touch his hand. It was ethereal and translucent, nothing he could identify. Gedare and Tasia, the two companions that brought him to Weshaven, walked with him.

Sammil marveled as the only sound he heard was his clumsy footsteps echoing down the hall. It was almost as if the others were weightless. Oona turned to face tall, double doors and then swung them open.

“Please, make yourself comfortable, Brother Sammil. You’ll need to eat and drink something to soften the after-effects of eating the panem.”

He stepped into the modest room, with minimal decor. A wooden chest against the wall held loaves of bread, fruit, and drinking vessels. At the center of the room was a long table with padded white chairs.

“Panem?” Sammil’s voice cracked as if he hadn’t spoken for some time.

“The flatbread,” Oona told him. “I’ll explain later. Tasia will keep you company. Gedare and I will return.”

With one fluid movement, Oona pulled the double-doors shut. Sammil rubbed the back of his head. “It feels like our travel to Weshaven didn’t take very long, but my body says otherwise.”

Tasia invited the Chronicler to eat with the wave of his hand. Sammil stepped to the trunk, put food on a linen square, and walked over to the table. His Weshaven host poured something into a drinking vessel and placed it by him.

Sammil examined the chair, like others he had in Northport. But this chair had something stuffed inside the linen and the back. The seat bowed with padding under the white fabric, making it appear comfortable. Sammil sat down gently.

Wiggling his backside, he couldn’t believe how comfortable the chair felt. “Why, I would never get anything done if I had a chair like this back home.”

With every morsel and drink he consumed, Sammil felt restored. He tried to convince Tasia to rest, but the red-headed man stood watching. “If you won’t sit with me, can you at least stand in front of me, so I don’t have to turn?”

Tasia acquiesced and stood on the other side of the table. “I have a theory about Weshaven, and it’s people. Would you like to hear it?”

To his surprise, Tasia nodded his head. “Well, we are finally communicating. Alright, here is my theory. Weshaven doesn’t exist, except in my head like a dream. The flatbread I ate had something in it that put me to sleep.”

Looking down, Tasia smiled, shaking his head. “Wait, wait,” Sammil raised his hand. “I am still in the wagon, in a sleep state, and this around me will disappear once I awake.”

The read-headed Weshaven man looked up, returning to his stoic stance. “I can see that you think I am wrong. I am open to another explanation. So, go ahead. I am listening.”

Sammil crossed his arms, looking at Tasia. For the first time, he took a closer look at the man. Tasia had a slight build but appeared to be deceptively strong. With his vibrant red locks behind his head, Sammil could see his smooth face lacked facial hair.

It was difficult for Sammil to see the color of his eyes. His gaze was honest with an innocence he hadn’t seen in anyone before. It was as if Tasia could see into his soul.

Clearing his throat, Sammil tapped the table. “I must say, I positioned a much stronger argument for my theory than you have for yours.”

At that moment, Oona Sera walked in with Gedare, who carried rolled up parchments. He placed them on the table and sat next to Oona. “How do you feel?” she asked.

Sammil thanked his host with a slight bow. “I’m not as tired anymore.”

“Panem, in its pure form, isn’t suitable for your kind.”

Sammil stumbled with his reply, trying to understand what Oona meant. “Do you mean a Chronicler?”

Gedare chuckled, and Oona smiled. “Sammil, do you recall what I told you about me when I first met you in Northport?”

“Are you’re referring to our talk after Theodor’s father left the boy to our care? Then, yes, I remember. You said you were a Watcher.”

“Correct, “Oona confirmed. “And what does that mean?”

“Well, I’m not sure. I think you said you’re hereā€¦” Sammil paused, “To watch us?”

The white-haired man pulled out a silver coin, round and smooth, with an emblem of a bird on one side. He rolled it towards Sammil. The Chronicler slapped his hand to stop the roll, then picked up the coin.

“The world we are in is like this coin,” Gedare started. “Turn it over to the blank side. You cannot see the other side of the coin when it’s resting in your hand. But it doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t exist.”

“Are you saying there are two different worlds?” Sammil asked, confused as he stared at the coin.

“No,” Oona interrupted. “Gedare is telling you there are two sides to this world. There is the side inhabited by your kind. Then there is the other side where we are from, as Watchers.”

She allowed Sammil time to digest her words before continuing. “Los Terra has a phrase for your kind, ‘oda umoya.’ Buberrans, before there was the common language, would say ‘comma anala.’ They both mean the same thing – breath eaters.”

“Breath eaters?” Sammil repeated.

“From the moment the Ancient One created your kind, He blew his breath into your souls. This act is why we refer to your kind as breath eaters. As you continue to live on this side of the world, you must breathe.”

“But you appear to be like me.”

Tasia smiled again. “This is the most emotion I’ve seen him express,” Gedare told Sammil.

“Those of us in Weshaven come from the other side,” Oona explained. “Remember, there are two dimensions, but the same world. The Ancient One created us as well, but without breathing into us.”

Sammil stood, stepping away from the table. “So, what are you?”

“We are Watcher, as I said. There are angels, heralds, seraphim, and other beings that serve the Ancient One. Our task is simple. We observe and interfere when something or someone threatens the balance.”

Sammil sat back down. “But, Oona, you appear to be like me.”

“To live among you, we take on your appearance. On our side, our bodies are different, not confined by flesh and bone. The light from the Ancient One clothes us. We move as fast as we can think.”

The Chronicler shook his head. “I should have some more panem about now.”

Gedare stretched his arm across the table towards Sammil. “My friend, this is not the end of the story.”

“Yes, I thought as much,” Sammil replied. “You are here because we are no longer in balance.”

Oona gazed at Gedare, and then to Tasia. She was right to trust Sammil all these years. “We are not the only Watchers here. What do you know about Karune?”

“Not much. Karune is on East Mainland, south of Buberra. Their people never venture beyond the borders of the city.”

Oona stood up and sat at a chair closer to Sammil. “The people of Karune were Watchers at one time.”

“What are they now?” Sammil looked away from Oona sera, fearing her answer.

She placed her hand on his shoulder. He felt a warm wave flow through his body, what he felt when he used Dotek to unfold someone’s past. But Oona wasn’t touching flesh. He slowly turned to Oona.

“I know your fears Sammil. I can feel them now. Theotello isn’t entirely right when he says you cannot return to Northport. This moment, you must choose. Keep this in mind. Your choice carries consequences.”

Sammil glanced at Oona, then at Gedare and Tasia. They looked capable of confronting the unbalance in this world. He didn’t know why they needed him.

“We understand your hesitation, Sammil,” Gedare said. “Watchers can do many things, but there are two things we cannot do. We can’t violate the laws governing this side of the coin, and we cannot interfere.”

Sammil stood up, pushing his chair behind him. “What do you want from me? You want me to interfere, don’t you? But that means I would have to travel to Karune!”

Oona stood and walked to the door. Without looking at him, she spoke. “Tasia will take you to your room. You have three days to make your choice.”

She hung her head, then turned to Sammil. “You know nothing of what you can or cannot do. You see with limited vision. Do not make your choice with what you see. Use the gifts you received. They come from our side of the coin.”

Sammil walked around his room. The conversation he had with the Weshavens three days ago resonated within him. For three days, Sammil wandered through the halls of Domus Caelum. He saw an occasional person from Weshaven but nothing of Oona or Gedare.

Tasia was his constant companion wherever he went. Sammil started talking to Tasia, sharing stories, and asking questions he never answered.

But today, he was alone. Sammil opened his door, stepped into the hall, and saw that Tasia wasn’t there. He rubbed his head and thought about leaving Weshaven. Sammil only knew about recording history, not making it.

Then he remembered Theo’s words how their presence might change the course of history. If this young Chronicler found courage when faced with uncertainty, how could he do any less?

Sammil quickened his steps, unclear where he could find Oona Sera. So he returned to the double doors he entered through when he first arrived. He pushed them open. There, Oona Sera, Gedare, and Tasia sat waiting for him.

“I’ve made my choice,” Sammil announced.

“We knew the moment you made it,” said Gedare, “Which is why we are here. Sit, there is much to discuss.”

Sammil thought there would be more fanfare with his choice. Nonetheless, he pulled up a chair, ready to listen. “Tell me about Karune.”

Oona’s smile soothed Sammil’s fears, which he still held close. “Eos, the Fallen One, led the Watchers of Karune. Sometime long ago, ‘oda umoya,’ breath eaters, inhabited Karune. Finding the daughters to be fair, Eos violated his oath and took one of them as his mate. Soon, the others did the same.”

“What happened next?” Sammil asked.

“Before his fall, the Ancient One honored Eos. He entrusted him with the crystals of creation,” Gedare told him. “Eos wore them like you wear a tunic. He reflected the light and bore the strength of the crystals.”

“But he thought he was the Ancient One,” Oona said. “He decided to act as if he could do anything. So he and the other Watchers took the daughters of Karune. But then, judgment came swiftly.”

“The very crystals he wore became his prison,” Gedare continued. “They stopped reflecting light and changed to krysmorta, death crystals. The Ancient One cast him down, deep into the caves of Bojahalla. He is now a Kerberos or demon of the pit.”

Sammil whistled softly. “Karune is mining Krysmorta, as Theo saw in his vision.”

“Yes,” Oona Sera confirmed. “Karune is looking for Eos.”

Leaning back, Sammil asked what happened to the other fallen Watchers. “Their bodies became their prison. They are eternal spirits trapped within flesh and bone,” Gedare explained.

“But our bodies deteriorate,” Sammil said. “How could they live so long?”

Oona shook her head. “It’s not surprising. They wear flesh and bone like a canvas that never ages. The fallen of Karune feel every frailty but without any relief. That is their punishment.”

Sammil took in every word but struggled to understand the urgency. “If the Fallen have been here in Karune for such a long time, why is this a problem now?”

Gedare looked to Oona for directions. She nodded her head, confirming not to hold back any information. “Brother Sammil, Karune remains trapped on this side of the coin, but they are patient. And they are devious.”

“Krysmorta is a crystal capable of storing energy and releasing power,” Oona told him. “It vibrates like a honeybee but undetectable to your eyes. It’s sturdy as metal but easy to form.”

“Until now, Karune found pieces. But if Theotello is correct, they are mining the crystal, ” Gedare pointed out.

This information was more than Sammil could process. “I am a simple Chronicler, ” he reminded them.

Oona reached out to him. “Please, touch my hand. I’ll allow you to see what is happening in Buberra.”

Sammil wasn’t sure what to do, but the ruler of Weshaven insisted. He felt Oona’s hand, soft and delicate to the touch. Suddenly, Sammil found himself inside a warehouse. Men swung hammers against anvils, forming swords with each blow. Boiling cauldrons hung over hot fires.

He watched as a woman poured the contents of a caldron onto the sword. It was thick like molasses but hardened almost instantly. Turning the sword to coat both sides, the woman finished her work by dropping the sword into a tub of water.

Oona pulled her hand away. “Buberrans are making weapons coated with krysmorta. These are for Karune.”

“And why is Karune collecting weapons?” Sammil asked.

“Isn’t it clear?” Oona responded. “The Fallen want to defeat the Watchers. But they also want to destroy the breath-eaters. They found gifted artisans in Buberra who designed a way to harness krysmorta.”

Sammil didn’t want to ask, for he already knew the answer. But he couldn’t help himself. “Why do they want to destroy us?”

Gedare leaned closer. “Because, my friend, they blame you and your kind for their fate.”

The Chronicler rubbed his eyes. He took a deep breath and said, “So when do we go to Karune, and how do we get there?”

Tasia, never speaking a word, grabbed several charts that laid on the other side of the table. He pushed them closer to Oona, making sure Sammil could read the contents.

“This is where we are,” Oona started, “On West Mainland. Karune is on East Mainland, south of Buberra. Lake Morna lies between them. To get to Karune, we must travel around our lands, and beyond Los Terra.”

Sammil looked closer at the map. “Have you ever traveled across the Great Waters between East and West Mainlands?”

When no one answered, the Chronicler looked up. “The winter season is almost upon us,” Gedare pointed out. “This must be a two-part journey.”

He traced his finger from Weshaven to Los Terra. “We must leave for Los Terra now if we are to make it before the seas become turbulent.”

“And then what?” asked Sammil

Oona pushed the map away. “We winter in Los Terra. We cannot travel to Karune until Spring. There are ample opportunities for you to convince Ahnoro to join our quest. And, he will need convincing.”

“Who is Ahnoro? And what do you mean I have to convince him?” Sammil didn’t like where this was going.

Standing up and rolling the map, Oona handed it to Tasia. “Ahnoro rules Los Terra. We’ll need his help if we are to confront Karune. Please get ready to travel.”

“Wait,” pleaded Sammil as he followed the Weshavens to the doors. “I don’t understand. I thought you would lead the Watchers to Karune.”

Gedare turned and held Sammil back as Oona and Tasia stepped out of the room. “Sammil, Watchers from East Mainland will join us when the time is right. For now, we’ll sail with a small crew to Los Terra.”

“But why do I have to convince Ahnoro?”

Gedare exhaled softly. “I know we are moving faster than you can comprehend, but time is not standing still. Remember, Watchers cannot interfere as we told you. Karune is only preparing for battle and will do very little to tip the balance until they are ready.”

Sammil began to understand. “So, what am I to say to Ahnoro?”

“It will come to you at the right time,” Gedare assured Sammil. “This is not our battle but belongs to the Ancient One. He will provide.”

With a nod, the Chronicler relaxed his shoulders, then followed Gedare into the hall. To his surprise, Tasia waited for Sammil in his stoic stance. “I thought you left with Oona,” he said.

Gedare smiled. “You haven’t figured it out yet, have you?” He turned, walking down the corridor. He shouted behind him, “It will come to you. Tasia will take you to the harbor.”

Sammil stared at Tasia. “Watchers are unusual, but they can be annoying.”

Tasia pointed to the floor where Sammil’s travel bag sat with his walking stick on top. “So, that’s where you disappeared to when you left the room.”

He picked up the bag and stick. “I must say you move very fast. Lead me to the harbor.”

Sammil followed Tasia, walking through the doors that led to the front steps of Domus Caelum. The bright sun and cool breeze were welcome signs that the weather was in their favor.

Tasia continued down the roadway, with buildings blocking Sammil’s view. As he stepped around the last building, the vista opened to the harbor.

The sea disappeared beyond the horizon. There were three ships of varying sizes tethered to the pier. Sammil saw men loading the mid-size vessel, others inspecting the sails.

“Why aren’t we sailing the big ship?”

Tasia brought Sammil to Oona and Gedare, who stood by one of the ships. The Chronicler noticed ‘Serenum’ painted on the hull. “I’m traveling on a vessel called ‘fair weather.’ I can only hope.”

Oona waved, wanting her welcome to dispel any fears Sammil embraced. “We can maneuver this ship with a small crew. It offers shelter from the weather, and sails with speed. Let Tasia take your things on board.”

He watched as the red-headed man carried his belongings up the gangplank. Placing his hands on his hips, Sammil bent over and took in a deep breath. “Tell me you brought panem with you.”

Written by Mike Arroyo

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