He and Aethin remained with what was left of their travel party. Most of whom were still arguing with each other, splitting into factions of their own.
“We could head for another Settlement right now, rest out here a bit then move on.” The companion he spoke to looked at him in disgust “You want us to sleep out here”, motioning to the commoners “with filth, we’re Chanters, Chosen!”
The first to speak shrugged looking at the ground “We’re also unwanted, and being sent to our deaths, again” he looked up “It’s only for a few Rounds, it’s not as if we’re going to sleep alongside them.”
Similar conversations happened around Dailin, none of them pleasing to his ears “So” looking to Aethin “What’s our choice, my Mentor.” He knew the man was up to something, unlike everyone else he wasn’t upset. Aethin breathed in calmly and kept his voice low “For now we’ll take them up on their offer. If I find the conditions to this new flock wanting, we’ll separate from them while heading to these new grounds, and instead, change course to the nearest Settlement.
Dailin tried to hide his dismay, but Aethin pick up on it and laughed “Give me some credit Acolyte, I’ll not have us fall into another disastrous situation as before.” His merriment ebbed “No, I’m not Vernac, even with that title of his, how he thought a Sanctum would take them in.” his voice trailed off as he looked to the ceiling.
Dailin his curiosity peaked “Is it really that hard?” Aethin eyed him “To live in a Sanctum permanently I mean.” Aethin scoffed “Everyone wants to live in one of the Sanctums, it’s the life dream of most out here.” Gesturing at the towering door “The Wards alone should tell you why” Aethin eyed it with envy “Every surface in there Acolyte is to the quality of this door. Nothing could ever get in, no amount of Nightmares would be able to bring these walls down.”
Dailin arched a brow “Not even that Ancient?” Aethin shivered “No… maybe if there was an army of the things, and some Cycles of them hitting the walls continuously, and there wasn’t a host of Chanters keeping it charged.” Aethin shrugged “Besides if it got to that point Elders would come out, and the situation would solve itself.
Dailin studied the door, still unable to get a clear focus on its workings, there was just too much happening at once. “Must be nice.” Aethin walked up to him, patted his shoulder “Oh, it is, you’ll see, you’ll see it all before they throw us back out here.” Dailin stayed quiet debating with himself to even bother asking, he eventually gave in. “Then how is it someone gets the right to live in there?”
Aethin hummed lost in thought for some time “Born into it, or you're able to prove you’re Worth to a large enough clan to house you. Though then you’ll have to come fight out here every so often.” Dailin moaned, as he cursed in his mind. “So not much of chance then.” Aethin chuckled “A small one, but don’t worry Acolyte, our Settlement was new and small, there are those out there that are rather larger, far more fortified than our bare walls. Those are the places we will aim for.” Aethin cocked his head “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a Settlement refusing newcomers, so” Aethin smiled bright “Don’t be to dishearten there plenty more places to go to.”
“Right” Dailin not bothering to hide his distress “All we got to do is travel through infested halls. Again, and hope we get lucky this time.” Aethin sighed “Yes there is that, but that’s why we’re taking them up on their offer. Need to give the Nightmares some time to disperse. The halls will be peaceful next time” he pulled away from Dailin, as he looked towards the other Chanters. “We were running from a hunt Acolyte, what you experienced isn’t the norm when moving around. It’s the worst case scenario, most times you’ll only run into a hand full of them if you know what you’re doing.”
He took Dailin hand and tugged “So don’t worry too much about. Now it looks like most of our brothers have made up their minds, we might as well follow.” As Dailin looked he saw that majority of the group is walking towards the Guards.
The Sanctum Chanters returned, three in total, which escorted them into the City. They entered a small hallway as they passed through the side door, which Dailin guessed was a good indicator of the thickness of the colossal gate. He gasped as they exited, the full view of the city open to him. All the stone had been removed somehow, leaving a miles-wide dome. Just as Aethin said Its features were covered in equally impressive Wards as the door. The city was built upwards many lines of defenses and trenches circled in intervals among the buildings. Actual buildings, it felt as if a city had simply been moved underground, or swallowed and thrown done here. Towers sprung up in places all connecting to the roof of the Doom. Crosswalks connected to each tower so densely that it appeared as a massive spider web. A web that sparkled since the buildings were lined with Wards. Now that he thought about, everything seemed to be, the city glowed dazzlingly. There were people everywhere, hundreds, maybe thousands. Even with how large the dome was he could instantly tell it was cramped, filled to capacity perhaps over.
‘I’m never going to get in here to stay.’ Every Chanter that resided here had eyes that glowed, others had veins like Vernac, and those were just the people guarding the walls, the outer defenses of this city. His lives no matter how different had commonalities. One that the strong and important were always in the center. The largest and tallest towers were indeed in the center of the city glowing brighter than all the others. He knew the important people would be housed there. His body sagged as he thought about it ‘I can’t even compete with lowly guards.’
Their guides lead them to a line of massed people, a loose formation that moved slowly upwards towards Chanters that were processing them. Similar to his own group none of those in this line appeared happy about it. Dailin studied them, and though most were better clothed than him, they were a step down compared to those racing around. These were unwanted like him, his new fellows in arms. He looked to Aethin “How long will we be allowed to stay? Things seem” he paused to scan those around, people scrambling about carrying weapons, supplies and contains that he hoped would be filled with Mana. “Rushed right now.” Aethin had his own look of the complex, he took a breath “A Rotation, if we’re lucky maybe two. This order from the Elders must have been recent if they're still spending time gathering supplies rather than people.”
Dailin grimaced ‘only a day of rest before were sent to the wolves again.’ He sulked as they waited in line, his mood shared by most. Eventually, he got far enough to the front of the mob that he could hear how people were being processed. Enough to know what to say, and not present himself as a dolt. His turn arrived, and the Sanctum Chanter asked in a bored tone “Name, Clan, and title?” he answered “Dailin Bae Chanter” the other bobbed his head, as he marked symbols into a thin sheet of stone. He looked up to Dailin as he picked up a small stamper. “Right hand.” Dailin reluctantly followed the order as he placed his hand on the table. The clerk was quick as he stabbed the top, branding a small symbol. It felt as If he’d just be stung, but the pain simmered away instantly
When he was done the Chanter pulled a token from a container that laid next to him, and handed it to Dailin. “It’s good for only a Rotation, so I advise” He looked Dailin up at down some disgust showing “That you make use of it while you can. Next.” He shooed Dailin away, but he paid the rude man little attention, no his focus was on the object in his hand. It looked in appearance to a Heart, though it was small, the size of half a finger. The Mana held within wasn’t for the taking, but to maintain a function. What he didn’t know, so instead he waited for Aethin to be done.
Dailin stood off a ways, and did his best to keep from blocking anyone path. Aethin processing was taking far longer than his own, as Aethin seemed to be asking the Clerk multiple questions, at the end of it he even handed said clerk something as he walked away heading towards him. Aethin smiled as he neared “Good to see an Acolyte waiting on their Mentor” he breathed happy “I trained you well.” Dailin gave him a small smile ‘No I just haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on, or where to go, or what to do in general.’ He widened his smile and prayed he sounded genuine “I aim to please, my Mentor. So what do we do now?” He looked down at the token in his hand, “and what do I do with this?”
Aethin laughed “I forget at times that your, young.” He pulled out his own token “Send a small amount of your soul into it, and the Shard will do the rest.” Aethin putting his guise back on, standing straight his head stilted up “As for what we’re to do, I” Placing a hand on his chest “Have appointments to make before things get underway. You are to find your room and rest” he looked Dailin up and down “perhaps freshen up a bit. I know I will, there’s only so long I can stand for the stains of the dead to linger on him.” Dailin looked towards his feet, though dry it was caked in things he didn’t want think about, his trouser to had seen better days. “I don’t suppose you can tell me where I can get my clothes cleaned?”
Aethin hummed as he scratched his head “So very young” he looked to Dailin “All that you’ll need will be in the room provided you, don’t hesitate to take any clothes either. Those here are of better make than the rags the maidens draped you in.” “Now” he pulled Dailin into a hug, which Dailin found awkward, and a little embarrassing with the number of eyes around. “I have much to do, remember connected to the Shard it will provide everything you need.” With that, he pulled away not once looking back to make sure he was fine. Dailin quickly lost track of Aethin when he entered the crowd of people.
‘Well done, leave a morphed infant on their own, in a large city.’ He sighed as he scanned the surroundings, a complicated ever-expanding maze, ‘What’s the worst that could happen.’ Rubbing the token in his hand he breathed, then focused on it, eyes closing. When a connection was made images played before him, paths to be taken, places to be avoided, it went all the way to the building he is housed in. the vision ended as it arrived at a marked door that the Shard is linked to. Then another scene played, leading to the location he will be required to meet with the others of his flock before their sent out of the city.
His eyes opened, and as he looked about again, he found places were already appearing familiar to him as if he’d lived here at one point. Dailin pursed his lips ‘Alright maybe he isn’t as neglecting as I thought.’ He pocketed the Shard as he made his way towards the crowd, entering the flow that marched upwards on patterned slopes. His room wasn’t that far off, held within the outer quarters, the poor sections he assumed, though it didn’t look it. Everything was pristine, neat and orderly, plant life abounds but is kept contained. Small gardens were everywhere, and he witness people coming and going taking shares of food without recourse. ‘Huh, free food for all?’ He was about to question this but stopped when he saw flowers and other plants instantly grow to replace the old.
He saw other oddities as he traveled, shops were people would enter and take what they wanted, and people help others finish a job if asked. People offering their services, as long as you spread the message of their Worth. The more time Dailin spent here the more he didn’t want to leave. This was a place of overabundance, where people lived carefree, their basic needs met with ease. ‘Then again I never did live in the Settlement long enough to see how things operated.’ The time there he did receive everything for free, he’d just thought it was to get the children fit to die. But it could have been the norm, at least for food, it did grow on every surface it was allowed. Everywhere he looked the city had a garden quartered off. If his ears weren’t deceiving him there was water moving about overhead, traveling pipes and aqueducts. The people here were clean which he approved of, and which others seem to think too. As people were sending him glares or looks of disgust as they passed him. He hurried along, none too pleased with the attention, nor the reminder that he was defiled by blood.
He was growing rather annoyed by looks of disdain by the time he arrived at the builder that housed his room. It was a construct of many shapes, a square for its center with Domes, and Pyramids mushed into it. A large oval doorway as the entrance that was crowded with people coming and going. His mind and body were at war over that. He wasn’t very fond of crowds, his body, on the other hand, was very pleased. The instinct that hounded him when he was alone, was completely gone or content with the numbers that revolved around him. Sighing as he weaved his way through the crowd ‘I can live with small inconveniences if it means I don’t have to deal with those things outside.’ he thought as he entered the interior of his home. The floor is polished stone, with carpets of varying furs or soft fabric, large glass colored art dominated most of the walls, which worked its way up into the ceiling. No one stopped him, asked who he was, or if he needed anything. Everyone just seemed too busy to pay him mind, well except to glare at his feet or wardrobe. He wanted to scream at them ‘I was running for my life, I didn’t have time to wash, stop judging me!’ he instead mumbled to himself as he went down a long hall. On both sides lined doors, he scanned them looked for the symbol that matched the Shards vision, he eventually found it near the back. There an insert for the Shard was present in the center of the door when placed there was audible click before it slowly swung open.
He was surprised as he wondered in, of the quality. The room is rectangular, with a fur looking rugs covered most of the flooring, his bed was oval, covered in sheets of browns and greens with a mound full of pillows on top. He even had his own miniature garden close to the bed. Some of the plants were familiar to him, especially the flower. There are shelves that attached to the walls, most covered in clothing that was rich in color and variety. In the opposite corner of the bed, the flooring went up to form a barrier, in its center was a drain. On the walls were pipes that entered from outside, only a single nozzle was present.
He closed the door behind, as his feet took him to the bath without command. Removing his rags that were more covered in grime and death than he had originally thought. He through those into the shower with him. Overhead hanged a pipe that loosed water when the knob was turned. The water was warm, maybe room temperate, and when it stayed that way, instead of turning ice cold he entered. There’s a stool for him to sit on, which he used. He spent a good five minutes washing his feet before he got to work on the rest of himself. Small shelves lined this corner full of scented soaps and oils.
He stood and let the waterfall flow over him for a while, letting his muscles relax and life’s worries wash away. He was content and enjoying the ceiling art of colored glass placed in random patterns or in images of plants. An urge came to him, or, no the lack of an urge had his mind stir. Normally he would relieve himself before taking a bath or shower, instead, he felt nothing. He’d eaten and drank plenty during this short but very panic-inducing life. Yet not once did he have the urge to go, or by some miracle wet himself in fright. Looking down he could see he had a member, a sack, and when he felt, he did indeed have a backdoor. Yet he felt nothing, and even though he ate quite a bit his stomach was flat. In truth he was feeling hungry again, and now that he looked. there isn’t a place for him to go even if he needed to. Dailin was left rubbing his neck ‘I don’t mind, it’s a hassle sure, but needed I think.’ He wasn’t an expert on the workings of the body. He never had the chance to learn, such matters were left to corpse-men or scholars of varying colleges. He’s had many bodies that differed widely from each other but all had one common rule. When things went in, something else would eventually come out. He sighed as he turned the water off ‘I’ll find out at some point, I just hope it doesn’t happen in a way to make me a fool.’ He sighed again ‘or happen at a very inconvenient time.’
He looked around shaking water off himself and found that there wasn’t any towels or rags for him to use. Then the answer came to him ‘Right magic’, he hummed, and with a quick gesture, the water collected into a ball ahead of him. He did the same with his now washed rags. Feeling refreshed he eyed the assortment of clothing arrayed around him. He took a pair of long loose jeans, accompanied with a short-sleeved shirt. Both were a rich green with patterns of gold woven in them. He picked out a long brown robe to go with the ensemble that he placed on the bed, which he followed suit collapsing into the mounds of pillows and soft sheets. Sheets that felt of silk, and as he breathed in scented with pleasant smells that reminded him of summer flowers. He groaned as his muscles relaxed and he sunk into the bed, his eyes slowly closing. He was fully engrossed in the sensation of laying on something comfortable instead of hard stone.
When he opened his eyes, they showed his dream world “Wow, and here I thought my body was rested” He got up bouncing his way off his bed as he headed upside. The sun and crystal clear sky greeting him, as he made his way through the flat grassy landscape. The Maidens tune echoing in the air as he hummed along. He had free time now, for the moment before he would be fighting for his life, or hiding. So he savored the landscape a little longer before it began to shift. Walls sprouted from the ground circling upwards till he was inside once more. Shelves weaved along the walls, followed by volumes of books. When the scene was done he stood in a large library, and he was rather surprised about that. He knew Aethin had gifted them all the knowledge they would need to be effective Chanters, but he never really noticed how much. Shelves upon shelves stacked on top of each other, it was almost too overwhelming to conceive, that all of it had been passed over to him in a matter of minutes.
In here underneath all the spells and logic was information that would help him stay alive, somewhere in here was the key Aethin had used to maintain them both. He would need that, his own reserves pathetic compared to others. Not that he could complain too much, he was after all one maybe three days old at most. That left him rubbing his face “Gods is that it, it feels like an age has passed.” He breathed out, staring up into the glass ceiling “I’m not made for this, stress, worry, I need routine, I need mundane.” He let himself have this moment of peace, let his mind go blank.
He didn’t let go on too long, even though he needed it, he needed this knowledge more, so he sat and thought. Books floated to him those that had a connection to prolonging his Mana output. From the volumes of books that surrounded him very few made its way to the table that formed in his front. Those that did had him smiling as he poured over them, his future maybe not as gloomy as he once thought.
Aethin inspected the cloths the servants brought him as he lounged in the local baths. A robe and trousers, with colors of vibrant golds and blues, engraved with patterns and symbols dedicated to the Giver. He gestured to the Servant to leave them on the stool by his side. He lingered long enough for servants to finish manicuring his hand and feet before forcing himself to rise. He wanted nothing more than to stay and spend his day with the women who were eyeing him. ‘No, control, control yourself, things to attend to, things that need to be done’ with a wave of his hand he was dry, and the local-aids began applying scented oils on his skin and hair. Only then did he don his clothes and embark from the building giving his respects to those that ran the establishment. He frowned as he looked to the chronicler the time showing he had idled here longer than he should have. He hurried himself weaving through crowds effortlessly from many long cycles of practice. His destination the house of Channeling that even now he could see the crowds of people heading inside.
He grimaced and called upon the Giver’s fortune that none of his fellows would be there to see him. Especially not Vernac who would be expecting his return in favor if Aethin gave him the chance. ‘No, calm everything will be fine. I’ll get hold of my sister, she will hear me out, and all will be fine.’ He smiled ‘After all, I have stayed out of trouble, made myself useful, even if things went awry. ’He breathed calming his heart and held himself back from completely glazing his mind. He didn’t have his Acolyte here to guide him, he was on his own again. So He focused ahead scanning all those that entered with him inside the building. He moved to a wall staying out of the way as he looked about. His smile returned when he spotted no one he could recognize, and headed for a Teller. The lines were long as he feared, but nothing he could do about. Those higher than himself will be making arrangements, the launch of a new flock a surprise to most as far as he could tell. ‘This Sanctum is crowded, but there’s still room to place people.’ There was no need for the rushed work he was witnessing. Not unless his Settlement wasn’t the only one to be assaulted recently. ‘Is so’, Aethin took a calming breath again as his heart sped up. ‘Then I really need to get hold of my sister, before things get truly desperate.’
He almost wasted a full Round waiting for his turn with a Teller, but Aethin kept any annoyance hidden, it wouldn’t do him any good, rather his put on his best smile as he walked up. “Greetings I need to send a missive to the Sanctum Hadthel” He paused as the teller scribed it into the Crystal. The Teller motioned and he continued, “To Yain Val Counselor from here Brother Aethin Val Mentor.” The Teller didn’t pause at the mention of the names, nor look up, Aethin wasn’t used to being so ignored. He was too far from home, too far from groups that consider him of Worth. He needed to get away from here or this area will eventually be the death of him. The Teller still not looking up from his instruments “The hall to your right, door five. Next.” With that he was dismissed, it took some work but Aethin was able to force himself from glaring at the man. Instead, he walked away ignoring the individual, who dared ignore him, he didn’t have time to waste after all.
The hall was crowded, and he breathed at ease when he didn’t see anyone he knew. Hurrying He found his door gave the Servant manning it his name and took a seat in the lounge nearby. He took a light nap while waiting, and by the time he was called two Rounds had passed. He hastened himself inside the room, and weaved his soul into the Crystal, waiting for the signal and connection to go through before closing his eyes.
When he opened them he smiled wide and bowed “Yain so good to see you, Blessings abound” She smiled back but it wasn’t as bright as he had hoped “Aethin blessing to you as well, is there” she paused as another form took shape beside her.
Aethin called out when the silhouette became clear “Tine!” he said in as much joy as he could, hoping to hide what dread that may have ebbed out “truly the Giver blesses me well this Rotation.” She only huffed at him, before turning to her twin “Yain you need to cut him off” she pointed at him “He’s not going to grow to something of value with you coddling him”
Yain turned to her “He hasn’t asked for anything yet, he could making a report of how well he's doing.” She turned to him, eyes pleading that she was right, Tine following suit her eyes digging into him. He smiled nervously as he coughed “Yes to both.” Tine scowled at him, while Yain gave him a sympathetic look.
Tine crossed her arms “Well spit it out, how are things”. He began to fidget, ‘Calm, calm everything is fine’. “Uh, um, Things were going well” Tine looked about to talk over him, so he raised his hand “Then a large Horde of Nightmares took us by surprise and assaulted the Settlement.” That got her interest, and he noticed Yain look of concern, he focused on her adding pain to his voice. “We had to flee, very few of us made it to the Sanctum of Nictaul, We even “he had to take a calming breath “We even ran into an Ancient it almost took everything we had to kill the horrid thing. We nearly didn’t make it!”
Yain took a few steps forward her hands outstretched to rug him, before she stopped, remembering that they actually couldn’t. Tine was busy rubbing her temples and voiced “One, by kill does that mean your group disposed of all of the things fresh?” she eyed him “No, but” she talked over him “No? Then it’s not dead, not truly, its soul still remains. All that needs to happen is one of its brethren to lap up its remains and it will be reborn.”
Aethin signed “I know dear sister, I misspoke it’s been a trying Rotation.” She continued on not even acknowledge his words “Two why did you head for a Sanctum, third how did you get in?” she smiled mockingly at him “You’re nowhere near the Worth to get in one on your own.” He looked away “It wasn’t my idea beloved sister, our group was run mostly by a fool Prime Chanter, who thought he was valued enough to go anywhere he pleased. As for how?” He looked up at her making his eyes large “They’re sending a new flock out to settle ground, they let us in for a Rotation if we agreed to join.” Tine rolled her eyes, and her head as she turned to look at Yain “And now he wants us to get him out.” Yain looked at him, and he knew she wouldn’t abandon him, none of this was his fault. “Please my beloved sisters, this may be my last time contacting you, I lost all but one of my Acolytes, the Nightmares are in large numbers, they fill most of the tunnels, and their highly active. If I’m sent out with this flock, I doubt I'll return.”
Yain her voice almost quivering “Oh, dear brother don’t you worry your big sister will get you home safe and sound.” Tine groaned “Giver help me, really Yain?” Yain turned to her “What, he did nothing wrong, what’s he to learn from being dead?” Tine puffed “fine!” she stared him down “But don’t think your punishment is over, you’re going to earn your keep, you and this Acolyte you still have.
Aethin Bowed “Anything! Anything, I’ve learned, I’m a new man you’ll see. Tine leered at him “Oh, we’ll see alright.” Yain clapped excitedly “Good, well I’ll be off then, we have to make this quick before they throw you out.” Aethin bowed again “Of course, thank you, sweet sisters.” They dispersed and Aethin disconnected from the crystal, tears in his eyes and his smile beaming, he breathed in deep ‘all is well’.