• One TwentyOne

Ancients' Voyager

By Chidubem Ntiwunka-Ifeanyi



The clouds had turned dark as they always did before the downpour came down, slowly shadowing the three moons hanging over the city of Niedel.

It was built on the harbor banks leading out to the Great Treftan Seas. It served as one of the few port cities trading with the nations on the other side of the ocean.

The harbor sat to the eastern edge of the city, bustling with activity in the night, as workers unloaded goods from distant lands and merchants argued with customers over the prices of spices and silks. Men and women of numerous nationalities moved around the decks and streets in a hurry.

No one knew how the name of the port city came. Tales of its history were passed down from grandparents to grandchildren as they lay in their beds, with heavy eyes and staring out to the moons shining brightly.

They told moons as sisters and a fourth moon that once shone the brightest amongst all her sisters. Some named her Zodiac others named her one of the creators of the world. But we know she shone above the small fishing tribe that occupied where Niedel stands now. They worshipped the moons and bringing gifts each year to them. Of all the gifts they brought, the goddesses found the shells that washed up onto the banks to be the most pleasing. The fourth sister enjoyed these the most.

In their jealousy, her other sisters tricked her into leaving her place in the heavens, telling her of the most beautiful shell humans could not find, and so she left, abandoning the skies leaving three lights to shine.

The tribes in mourning came together, naming themselves after the lost moon. Some claim to see her searching the banks till this day, searching.

For a city of its size, Neidel held a large and diverse number of people from various divisions coming for trade or seeking success in one of the busiest trade centers. Alleyways and drainage systems crisscrossed between buildings made of weathered bricks and thatched roofs clumped tightly together on the city’s edge facing the harbor. The merchants’ shops, the Trade Market home, were an essential aspect of Neidel and constantly buzzed with activity. The voices of people haggling and bribing trading echoed. Men could be seen pulling wagons of trade goods like silk, food, gold, and spices filled the roads.

At the center of it all was a dominant mansion with seven towers towering above all other buildings in its majesty. Each tower stood dominant, with spiked peaks piercing through clouds reaching for the moons. “The Hall of Merchants,” the home of the Merchants’ Council, that was the goal.

Rhein watched the sky as his head ached, feeling like somebody had split his skull, and his vision doubled slightly. He swallowed a blue-green liquid that helped steady his vision and the headache. It would only help for a while, although he could still feel it.

He was not planning to kill anyone in the Council, at least not if he had to. They had something he wanted.

He scaled the wall and landed in a courtyard decorated with lamps, flowers, brushes, and guards, of course. Crouching against a wall, he waited for the guards to pass him by before running into the building. Inside was dark except for the little moonlight that managed to pierce through the clouds and glass roof. The reasoning behind those things evaded him. They provided easy access for anyone who wished to drop by and visit the council members.

The hallway leading to the stairs was guarded by a single man dressed in a breastplate made from layers of leather V shape. It covered everything from the neck down but left the sides exposed just like those in the courtyard. Rhein came up behind the man, grabbed him by the chin and forehead, then twisted. The man fell to the floor.

He climbed up to the seventh floor, meeting a single guard on each floor. Each suffered the same fate as the first.

There would be at least two guards station up in their leather breastplates. He knew from the informants he had placed inside. So far, everything they told him had been right despite the fact the council was known for its close kept secrets.

He found a long hallway lit by a few dim lamps and two guards in breastplates at their post on the final floor.

Rhein crouched behind a large stone pillar as he watched the guards. The breastplate was made of various layers. It covered the upper part of the body but left the joints and sides exposed to movement. The men stood watching a tremendous dark wood door and wore sheathed swords on their sides. One had his sword out.

It was a reasonably long, broad but rough blade made of steel. It had a sharp point and hilt wrapped in thick brown leather. The entirety of the hallway was empty except for the three of them. Reaching for his quarterstaff, he readied himself. It was made of a flexible black stone that provided outstanding durability. He stood in a defensive spear form, feeling like an extension of his arms.

Essence began to course through his body, slowly increasing in speed. The Kosmos continuously flowed through him, and he felt it running through him like a fast-flowing river. He wished he could use his abilities… But he ignored it for now. Rising from his crouch, he let himself be spotted by a guard who cried out before attacking.

Rhein swung his quarterstaff against the man’s sword knocking it down. Raising his weapon, he struck out, hitting him in the side and head in quick succession, ducking to dodge the blade from behind. Rhein spun to face the second man. Using his momentum, he struck his opponent’s wrist knocking his sword from his grip. Hitting the ankles, then head. The man groaned and fell to the floor.

Blood ran across his face and dropped into a small pool on the floor. The first man tried standing. Rhein thrust the tip of his spear against the man’s throat with enough force to crush it.

Stepping over the dead men, he opened the door to reveal five guards on watch in leather breastplates. They stood watching him enter the smaller room. The room held no lamps and was barely illuminated by the dim light from the hallway. There were a few marble pedestals holding treasures on slabs of stone.

They probably assumed they would fare better than their colleagues when forced into close combat. Their faces were masked in determination. Looks of fear flashed across their faces as he readied his weapon.

Again, he noticed weak points, but he ignored them. The room remained silent for a small moment before two men charged. Reading the men’s movements, he blocked the overhead blow by raising his spear. The staff quivered from the force. Then proceeded to knock the sword into his opponent’s hands. Then quickly hitting his sides before bringing it down against the skull.

He stepped back, evading a thrust from the second attacker. He switched to strike from above before striking at the unprotected knees, then ribs, and head. The final blow produced a loud crack as the man fell.

He noticed one of the unarmed guards rush at him swinging. Rhein barely managed to block but was overpowered and barely dodged the blow, leaving a dent in the stone floor.

The man grabbed him by the neck and slammed him against the pedestal before he could react, knocking the air from his lungs.

Rhein noticed a thin black band of metal wrapped around the man’s arms. He struggled as the man tried to choke him. Rhein kicked his attacker in the gut and spat in his face, causing him to stumble. Rhein fell to the floor, gasping, pulling out a dagger from his boot.

The man who had attacked had regained his bearing. He stood growling, swinging his weapon, then rushed at Rhein in rage. Rhein stepped into the attack. The blade grazed him as he barely managed to dodge. Then taking advantage of the man’s momentum in his blind rage, tripping him. His opponent fell, then Rhein picked up a slab of the marble stone, slamming it against the man’s neck, cracking the band around his neck, then hitting it again and again, crushing the throat, splattering blood across his face.

“Damned soldiers,” Rhein said, growing frustrated.

All three men who were watching once backed away in fear. They wore gauntlets that seemed to be made of dark stone, and steel glimmered. Their eyes were glossy. Rhein realized that the lord had somehow gotten himself access to a group of Zodiacs.

Rhein grew annoyed and sighed. He had tried to take it easy, pulling out a dagger. He had wanted to take it easy.

As another soldier swung down his weapon, he dodged easily, cutting off the gauntleted arm. The arm fell, and so did the man as he screamed, clenching his arm, feeling the pain he had been resistant to.

Sinking the blade into his enemy’s throat, leaving the man to fall as he tried to speak through a gurgle of blood. The next soldier charged and earned himself a blade through the eye and fell screaming.

As he stood to face the final soldier, a concrete wave of air slammed him into the ground. He felt forced down by an unseen force unable to move. Rhein had not anticipated one of the fourth.

He reached for his quarterstaff, which lay close, but he could not move his arm. Suddenly a loud crash echoed across the darkroom, glass shattered, letting moonlight and mist seep into the room. A moment later, the elemental fell to the floor to reveal a slim figure in black behind him, face clouded by the mists.

“Quit playing around.”, she said.

“I was caught off guard,” he said, standing up and dusting his cloak.

He walked up to the bookcase at the end of the room, pulled out a leather-bound book, inspected it, and then stuffed it in his coat pocket.

“Did you get it?”

“Right here,” she said.

“How was the treasury security?”

“Expected.”

“Almost got myself killed, plus we broke into one of the most secure keeps in the South.”

“We need to move,” Rhein said.

“You need to explain-,” she said but was cut off by shouts from the hallway.

“Just move!”

Immediately ten men came rushing in leather breastplates from the inner parts of the building holding lanterns and bearing swords. One man even carried a halberd, although the weapon seemed to frighten him.

Rhein climbed through the window beneath him was the city. From the vantage point, he could not make out the city in the rain. A few lights shone in the downpour, streetlamps that seemed dim from his perspective. Lightning followed by thunder flashed across the sky, almost blinding him.

Rain poured outside, obscuring his vision far below him as he jumped. He threw a hook, which grabbed onto the edge of the roof, then pulled himself up.

The rain pounded on the hardwood roof as lightning flashed across the sky. Below the large mansion at the city’s edge was a quiet city with the exception of carriages moving along roads lit by streetlamps. Most of the city was carved with winding streets and alleys that serve as escape routes in the right circumstances, which Rhein had memorized.

Talia came up a few seconds after him. Lightning flashed again, and he could make out her slim form wearing a long coat that swept at her feet and trouser. Dark frizzled curls jumped about as she ran, noticing him, then broke off, jumping onto a tiled roof building to her left.

He could not see the building below in the rain, but he steeled himself and jumped off the edge in the opposite direction into the dark, rainy night. As he fell, his cloak flapped in the wind, and the raindrops slapped his face before he landed on the edge of a tiled roof before slipping off. His jaw smacked against the roof’s edge before sliding off the side and falling into a hedge.

Something whistled above his head, and shards of clay tiles rained down as a crossbow bolt hit the roof of the garden shed.

Rhein’s vision blurred slightly; blood trickled from his sore jaw. He bit off a curse as he heard footsteps nearby.

Two guards strode close to his hiding spot.

“Probably hadn’t gotten word yet,” Rhein thought.

A dagger from his coat whistled through the night sky before taking a man in the chest. His partner turned sharply, back to the hedge, and earned himself a knife through the throat.

He climbed back up the shed and jumped past the iron wrought fence onto the next building.

He landed on the roof as lightning flashed across the sky. Below the large mansion at the city’s edge was a quiet city with the exception of carriages and carts drawn by rakers along lamp-lit streets. The beasts were large horse-like things with snouts and tough leathery skins. They could be easily frightened and went into raging fits.

The city held great criminal activity and nightlife. Smugglers brought into the port.

He noticed the girl was gone from behind; hopefully, she had not gotten herself captured.

A few feet beside were a figure running atop buildings, too slim to be dressed in light armor.

“How the hell did she get down there?” he asked himself.

Rhein jumped onto a street lamp that he swung from and onto the roof’s ledge and pulled himself up to face a stunned man; he kicked him off the building in a single quick motion. Three other men stood in shock before running for him.

He could barely see anything in the night, but he knew there was a building about fifty feet below where he stood from the maps he knew. He said a silent prayer and jumped off.

The raindrops and wind rushed against him, and his cloak flapped violently; he felt the excitement rush through him as he fell and landed onto the hardwood, slipping and rolling his legs ached, but luck had come through once again as that fall could have easily broken any of his legs.

“By the True One’s luck! How did I survive that?” He thought.

He heard groans from behind as he spotted three of the men in light armor lying atop each other. One man slowly began to rise.

Rhein jumped down to the alleyway surrounded by tall buildings with multiple windows and made of ancient stone, which had moss growing at the very bottom. He ran over wooden crates lying in the way, then kicked them to obstruct his pursuer’s narrow path, climbed up a fence, and stumbled into a busy road. The drug’s effects wore off, cause the aches to wash over him, and his vision doubled, causing him to fall to the ground.

Chaos followed as carts carrying crops, fruit, livestock screeched to a halt, trying to avoid him. Some people at the back crashed into those in front of them. Men and bits of machine soon lay in a mangled heap with Rhein luckily avoiding getting hit. The mess blocked the way for his pursuers.

“Bad idea,” Rhein whistled to himself as he ran on, noticing some of the Rakers growing in size and pulling whatever they held behind along on their rampage. The giant scaly beasts moved ahead on four feet with a single spike protruding from their backs were easily frightened and agitated. The entire incident was certainly enough of a distraction as windows on building nearby lit up with lamplight, and people stared down at the wreckage.

His pursuer stood staring at Rhein from the other side as Rhein smiled and waved as he was crushed by one of the rampaging beasts.

He moved towards the inn he had rented a few blocks away from where he was. That was the meeting spot he had decided as he moved through the alleyway. He saw a group of men in tattered clothing sitting outside, the inn most of them were used to things like this occurring.

He threw them a bag of a hundred bronze cubits that clinked when it hit the floor. An older man with a gaunt face and gray hair picked it up and searched the contents before nodding. Cubits were cube-shaped empty in the middle.

“That’s for the information on the keep. You will get the rest once you’ve gotten it out of the city,” Rhein said. “By have you seen a girl with blond hair and in a bodysuit around?”

“No pay, no information.”

“Fine,” he said, handing them some cubits.

“By the bar,” the old man said as he picked through the cubits.

***

Calare was barely fifteen before she ran away from the keep with her brother. No one ever cared for two runaway servants. They had worked almost their entire lives as servants for the lord of the farm with no pay, barely any food. Their mother had fled the city with one of her boyfriends, leaving her and her younger brother alone.

Although she repeatedly beat them in her drunken rage, sometimes teaming up with the men, she brought to stay and eat the food Calare, and Kain had stolen or begged for, Kain still loved her. For some reason that eluded her, he always loved that woman, but that was how he was not precisely innocent but naïve enough to care for those who hurt him so much.

Calare hated her mother. When she was younger, she always believed that her mother cared for them and attributed any harmful action to the alcohol despite her mother’s things.

Until the night she had forced Calare into the brothel, she was twelve when her mother returned smiling and in a good mood. Calare was immediately suspicious, but a part of her was hopeful. Their mother had bought Crème buns for Calmar and Kain after having what seemed to be a typical night. Later that night, her mother woke her from sleep and took her out, claiming to have a surprise; she led her into a brothel before Calare realized what was going on. It was too late. Her mother was in debt, and she was going to be the payment.

The man forced himself onto her as she screamed while her mother stood at the door watching as he violated her. At that moment, Calare decided never to trust anyone.

And began working with thieving crews across Nediel for four years since then before meeting Rhein two months ago, the man who had paid handsomely for her knowledge of the keep’s layout and her ability to see in the dark and across long distances nothing impressive, unlike Kain. He did not even know her name, or at least he never communicated enough with her to indicate he did or cared to.

Her mind snapped back to the present day. She noticed Rhein was not running alongside her anymore but was now running across the street disrupt cart and carriages drawn by Rakers. The beasts were new to Nediel but did their job well if they were not startled.

She jumped onto the building below, slipping but catching herself, and jumped down to the next building; the inn was not too far away now. She felt a sharp jolt as something pierced through her leg, and she fell to the building below her chin, slamming against the hardwood tiles. She felt a second jolt as she rolled down the side of the building and fell to the dirty pavement.

As she looked up. She noticed two men holding crossbows running atop the building Calare jumped from, then from the corner of her eye. She saw a young man in a dark cloak with gray hair walking towards her.

“Master Rhein! Master Rhein! I’m saved-,” she began to cry out, but then she noticed the grim look he wore.

Rhein bent down beside Calare. She was bleeding from her legs and mouth.

“Rhein, save me, please. Please?” she said, her eyes watering.

“I’m sorry, Calare, we can’t have you leaking information.”

He wasn’t planning on saving her anyway. She would just slow him down.

“So, he knew,” Calare thought to herself. She knew what was coming next.

“I hate you,” she said, crying.

“Good to know,” Rhein said as he pulled the dagger from her boot and plunged it into her throat.

Two men landed with thuds behind him, pulling out the dagger from her throat. He threw the blade into one man’s throat, the motion ingrained into his mind and body, ran up to him, dodged the swinging man, yanked the knife free from the dead man’s throat, and slammed it into his attacker’s knee. The man fell to the ground, and Rhein grabbed his head and snapped his neck, letting his lifeless body fall to the ground.


“They told moons as sisters and a fourth moon that once shone the brightest amongst all her sisters. Some named her Zodiac others named her one of the creators of the world. But we know she shone above the small fishing tribe that occupied where Niedel stands now. They worshipped the moons and bringing gifts each year to them. Of all the gifts they brought, the goddesses found the shells that washed up onto the banks to be the most pleasing. The fourth sister enjoyed these the most.

In their jealousy, her other sisters tricked her into leaving her place in the heavens, telling her of the most beautiful shell humans could not find, and so she left, abandoning the skies leaving three lights to shine.

The tribes in mourning came together, naming themselves after the lost moon. Some claim to see her searching the banks till this day, searching.”


Chapter Twenty of The Ancients’ Voyager by Mikela


About the Author

Chudubem Nitwunka-Ifeanyi, Virginia State University


Chidubem Ntiwunka-Ifeanyi is a 20 year old Computer Science major at Virginia State University. He grew up fascinated by fantasy and the many worlds found in books. This short story, "Ancients' Voyagers," is an excerpt from his novel-in-progress.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Boy