The Gates of the East. Jalten Short Stories #4

“The sun is rising,” Calin muttered to himself as he took a sip of his wine while leaning onto a stone railing. He stood at the mountain of arma, at the highest tower of the great castle of Talros, his family. He had lived here his entire life and the castle has been the home of his family for a thousand years and still, it stood mighty and strong, unwavering and unchallenged. He took another sip, focusing on the sweet, yet bitter taste of the wine. It made him smile as he shook his chalice, watching how the wine moved and splashed. “Where’s this wine from?” he asked.

 “It’s from the trade city of Azarmarthal, my lord,” a man answered from behind him. Calin began to hum and said:

 “I knew it,” he then scrubbed his brown beard and scratched his head as he stared at the rising sun; its golden beams painting the sky and waking up the lands. His steward continued cleaning his room and for a while, he was able to keep at it in peace. Calin emptied his chalice and glanced right, where the silver waterfall began to fall to the valley below. The waterfall split his castle into two sections and it was one of the most breathtaking parts of his castle. He began to walk to it until he got to the small stone bridge, which crossed the stream. The water hypnotized him. The way it moved and sparkled as it fell done filled him with amazement, every single time. After a moment of watching, he returned to his room and asked his steward:

 “Any news from the capital?” his sudden appearance startled the young man and he quickly answered:

 “Nothing, my lord,” Calin’s lips moved down a little and he cursed silently.

 “I’ve been waiting for the king’s message for two weeks now! What can be the matter?” He shouted as he walked to the wine jag and poured another glass for himself.

 “What I’ve heard, the king has crossed the border and visited King Thorlad himself,” the boy said with a stuttering voice. Calin spurted the wine as he heard his words and turned to stare him in shock.

 “What? The king has left the kingdom?” The boy nodded hesitantly. “What in the name of…” he screamed but calmed down shortly after. He leaned on the stone railing again. He bit his lip and scratched the stone’s warm surface as he attempted to make sense out of the situation. “Why would the king leave right now?” he shouted, “The capital is without its rightful king and the warlords are at our gates! What madness is this?” he cried.

 “There was a message from your son though, my lord,” the steward said as he handed a letter to him. Calin’s eyes widened as he studied the letter. The stamp had the sigil of his house, but the letter itself was poor quality and broken. It had seen rough times, which worried him. Calin opened it as he made his way to his table. He quickly pulled out the letter and began reading. The young boy examined his lord as he read and read, until he suddenly threw the letter on the table and sprinted out from the room, without saying a word. The door sang and banged before silence fell.

“My lord?” the boy shouted, but his calls found no ears to witness them.

Calin walked down the stairs and got into the great hall of his castle, where his servants were studying his worried face. “Is everything well, my lord?”

“No…” he whispered faintly, before continuing his way outside. The guards opened the doors for him and he got to bailey. He glanced around him, looking for a suitable horse and he was quick to find one for him. “Ready that horse!” he shouted as he ran on the muddy ground. The servants nodded and quickly readied his horse. Calin was quick to jump on it and prepare himself for a ride.

“My lord, where are you going?” one of the stable boys asked.

“I’m riding east,” he said as he kicked his horse to move, “tell my wife I’ll be gone for a few weeks,” He tried to remain serious and confident, but fear made its way into his heart. Like a plague, it corrupted his very thoughts, turning them dark and hopeless. please, gods, let my boy be alive, he whispered as he rode out from the castle’s gates. The guards on the battlements cheered for him as he left, wishing him good fortune and safe travel.

The mountain path was narrow, yet sure. It was built well by his fathers and it allowed him to travel with ease. He rode from the mountains to the lake of his family. There he stopped to drink, to sleep, and to think what the world had turned into. Tomorrow, he would raise and make his way through the gates of the arma and ride to the east, where his boy waited for him.

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