Adelard ran back to the citadel as fast as he could. Being a scholar and advisor of the, now dead, royal court, he had led a comfortable life. He panted, trying to keep his hand lifted in the air before him, as he willed a fragment of fire in the palm of his hand. It did not burn him,despite emanating from his hand, nor did it use his own flesh as a form of tinder. He was unsure as to how the fire element emanated from his hand, just as he was unsure as to how he could control the other three elements. Only a Hollowed could control the elements at the time, but perhaps the times were changing. He puzzled over them ever since he had found the pocket watch, but the answers would have to wait for another day; he had waited this long, so he could wait longer.
Now it was time to unravel the greatest threat of all: The plague of Revash Bohde. If the source of the infection had, indeed, came from the caverns below the city,what was the means of its travel? Air born? Land borne? An infected animal or person? Him and his fellow colleagues and doctors were at their wit’s end until one by one they succumbed to it; all succumbed except for him and Sohnelun. How they managed to survive for this long as, in itself, unnerving. Adelard praised himself for his use of the plague mask, but Sohnelun had never used one.
He peered into the darkness, contemplating in his mind for answers and searching his sight for any creatures, as he scrambled up the steps towards the citadel. He made his way through, traveling through a quarter of the ways of the courtyard. He scanned the novice crops, thinking of how he and Sohnelun devoted some time in planting them, thinking they would not grow; but, they did, and they were surprised. As he came near the tree fixated at the center of the garden, the light of the lantern focused on a person standing beneath it, harbouring an unsuspected being.
“Why did you let him out?” Sohnelun questioned, sounding as if Adelard had betrayed him.
“Sohnelun. Good. I thought you were something else. Listen. Miltos—the man you found—he’s” he panted, “he’s going to help us find out whatever it is that did this. Listen. I know you don’t care for the Abyss Walkers or their Hollows, but I think he found the source,” Adelard tried catching his breath, “with his help we can—”
“And you’re one of them too.” Sohnelun posed. His tone aggressive, he stepped forward to Adelard, grasping the tree as he rounded it. “I can see it all over you now, like a bloody damn river. When? How? Why did I never see it before? You were hiding it from me too, weren’t you?Just waiting for him to come!”
“What? No, no! I don’t know what you’re talking about. One of them? I can’t be a Hollow.”Adelard panicked. “Yes I kept this from you,” he pulled out the pocket watch, and realizing he still held the fire in his hand,he stretched both of them towards Sohnelun. The shadow of Adelard stretched behind him, reaching into the night. “I was just—Listen. I’m sorry. I should’ve shown this to you sooner.”
As Sohnelun’s eyes peered onto the pocket watch, his face contorted in anger. Snarling, he thundered curses and broke a portion of the tree off with his bare hand. He gripped the remnants, crushing them in his hand. Adelard gaped in terror. His body demanded him to move, to run, to flee, but his fear kept him in place.
“Do you know who caused all of this?” Sohnelun questioned, pacing lazily towards Adelard. The slit in his forehead, what Adelard thought was an odd wound from years ago, woke as though from a slumber. A third eye drowsily gazed at Adelard. Examining him, it saw the fire and pocket watch in his hands, and anxiously rotated, glaring in all directions.”Those damn gods and their slaves—You caused all of this!”
“No, no no—”Adelard shouted, perplexed by what he saw.
Sohnelun lunged towards Adelard, his arm outstretched. All of the scars, the cuts, on his arms opened. Thousands of eyes stared back at Adelard, several hundred fixated on him, the fire in his palm, or the pocket watch,darting back and forth between the three. The cavities housed not only one voluminous eye, but several insect-like eyes. Each glaring at him in wrath. As Sohnelun’s hand grasped Adelard’s face, the eyes laughed. The pressure of Sohnelun’s grip was crushing his cheek bones like a vice. His face would be crushed, like how Sohnelun crushed Miltos’ face.
Terrified, Adelard gripped the pocket watch, squeezing it in his hand. With his other hand, not realizing the fire still burned in the palm of his hand, he reached for Sohnelun’s arm to pull it away from his face, burning several cavities housing the eyes. He reared back in pain, clutching his burnt arm as Adelard tried to regain his composure.
“Why are you doing this Sohnelun!”
“Because you’re the one who did this. You had to find that thing. Those old stories? Oh they’re quite true, it has told me. That ancient creature slumbered in the depths of the kingdom. But now I know why. Why it woke up.Because it found out you had it!”
He dashed towards Adelard again, however he anticipated it. He drew strength into the fire element in his hand, slashing his hand through the air as if he held a sword. The fire surged towards Sohnelun; the intensity of the heat and brightness of the fire caused him to cross his arms before his face, shielding him. In protecting himself, the eyes of his arms twitched in pain; their vision darkened, becoming clouded and white.
Adelard stepped several feet backwards into the crops, trying to put distance between himself and Sohnelun. He was careful to avoid tripping over the roots of the plants. Sohnelun was quick, but as long as Adelard could anticipate his friend’s actions, he could protect himself. ‘Protect himself from his friend.’ Where had everything gone wrong?
“If I can just give it to him, everything will go back to how it was,” Sohnelun mused to himself, wiping off the ash and seared flesh from his arms.
“Give it back to who Sohnelun? Give it back to who?”
“Just give it to me. This is all your fault. All your fault!”
Sohnelun had the strength and quickness of a wild animal, but the mind of an indoor scholar. He was no warrior despite these, and neither was Adelard, though he at least possessed his rational mind. Sohnelun dashed to Adelard once more. His eyes and thoughts all focused on Adelard, to grip his disgusting face and crush it, then take whatever he had and take it below. Below? Yes, below. He would take it below and give it away to whom it rightfully belongs to. It would set everything right again. Everyone would come back. His wife would be there. Everything would have been like a long nightmare.
Adelard trembled. He needed an opening. Gripping the pocket watch, the thought occurred to him that he could raise a pillar of earth into Sohnelun’s path. With his speed, he would crash his stubborn head into it, stunning him, if only for a brief moment so that Adelard could restrain him. The timing had to be right, otherwise his friend would dodge it. Sohnelun could be reasoned with, he hoped. That was all Adelard needed. He imagined a pillar of earth, rising sharply from the ground…
Sohnelun stretched out his arm, hoping to take hold of Adelard as he sprinted.The muscles tightening in his forearm, and his hands becoming vice-like; his fingers were a predators fangs that would not let goof his prey once caught, and he would crush the deceiver’s face. He reached out further as he came closer to Adelard, not noticing the placement of his feet. The roots of the growing potatoes caught his foot, binding his momentum downward. His vision of Adelard lowered as he tried to react. He tried catching himself on the earth, when a pillar rose from it, puncturing him in his chest.
“No,no, gods no! Sohnelun!”
Adlard rushed to his friend. The sharp pillar formed like a pike, its tip bloodied from the catch of a wild animal. Sohnelun continued to struggle for both life and Adelard’s death; each breath, he choked on his own blood as his arms flailed about, trying to reach for Adelard. Adelard reached for the pillar, trying to force it back into the earth, but in his panic the pillar did not react to him.
Athand, Sohnelun gripped his face. He gurgled blood as he rambled in anger, unable to crush it. He was right there, within arms reach. The eyes within his body stared at the object in Adelard’s hand and his body reacted. No longer feeling anger, he felt a desperate need, an aching need for it. His fingertips all but had it, knocking it out of Adelard’s hand onto the ground.
Both of the men cried.
Sohnelun’s body no longer moved. Its arm reached for the pocket watch in vain as the remaining eyes grew clouded and white. Adelard fell to his knees,his vision blurred by tears and darkness.