Episode 7 - Cavaheim

Page 5

Crowd

The crowd gaped at Ruby but did not disperse. Ruby and her group became encircled by the mass of confused citizens. Soon, not even the Ord Priest could keep them at bay. Hands reached out towards Ruby. The soldiers did their best to push back, but a hand gripped her shoulder before being shoved off by Hakk-Kahn.

"I touched her ," someone said, retreating into the crowd. "I touched the Lady Chaos. She is real."

"She's really here to help King Basha? I thought he was all powerful."

"Maybe he won't screw things up this time."

This last statement earned a bellow of rage from Hakk-Kahn. He raised his hand, a ring of metal strapped to his palm. He blasted into the crowd with a bolt of green energy.

People screamed. They ran in all directions. Hakk-Kahn continued to blast energy into the retreating citizens. A few people fell face down on the grass and stayed there. The rest dispersed. When Ruby's group was alone, Hakk-Kahn fell to his knees, gasping and wheezing.

The soldiers stood stunned. They had not used their swords during the entire ordeal, only waving them to ward off the crowd. They stared down at the Ord priest, looking uncertain.

Are You Okay?

Ruby moved to the Ord's side. "Are you okay?"

The man hung his head, his shoulders heaving, his left hand balled into a fist against the grass. Ruby put a hand on his shoulder. "Hakk-Kahn?"

The man stiffened a moment, then relaxed. He sighed and pushed off the ground. Ruby held his arm to steady him as he rose. He stood still for a moment, testing his stability, then he nodded at her and gave a weary smile.

"Your grace, do you wish to retire to the palace?" Democritus asked the Ord.

Hakk-Kahn shook his head. "Let her see her statue. Then we'll see."

Democritus bowed. "As you wish, your grace."

He turned to Ruby and spoke in his sharp English, the scholarly fire now lost from his eyes. "Follow me, please."

"Wait," Ruby said, staring down at the unconscious body of a woman sprawled on the flagstone path. "What about all these people?"

"They will wake up in time."

"But shouldn't we do something for them?"

Democritus glanced at Hakk-Kahn. "Our responsibility is to escort you and keep you safe. We will send others for these people."

It was wrong to leave people unconscious in a public place. Ruby had to step around a man's twitching body as she followed Democritus along the pathway. Nobody spoke.

Beyond the looming statue of the "Holy Usurper," Ruby saw their destination. A much smaller statue standing apart in the garden, the one she'd seen on the video monitor up in the observatory.

It was her—a perfect likeness. The dress provided by Tachma completed the effect.

Farook

A man in a blue tunic stood facing the statue, his back to Ruby and the others. He stared up at it as one would view fine art in a museum, his hands clasped behind his back. He showed no sign he sensed Ruby or the others were there, as if the whole disturbance a minute ago had escaped his attention.

"I'm sure you have heard of this statue by now," Democritus said as they neared it. "And you recognize the likeness."

"This is what the people call 'Lady Chaos?'" Ruby asked.

"That is a popular reference, although its true name is forgotten in time."

"Who made it?"

Democritus raised an eyebrow. "Since I heard of your arrival, I've researched that very question. The record of its origin is lost, but references go back hundreds of years. It was here long ago in the days before the Starrik empire. Pontius the Essayist referred to it as 'The Child of Unforeseen Destinies' back in the year 233 S.E. when he described the architecture and monuments that pre-dated the Starrik reconstruction. It is perhaps that name that evolved into the common moniker that people use today. I cannot say more than this, but I have only started my research."

The man in the blue tunic turned to Ruby and the others. He had a black beard and piercing gray eyes. His eyes met Ruby's, and rather than showing shock, he smiled. "It appears the model for this statue has arrived to appreciate her likeness," he said in Starrik.

Democritus gasped. "Master Farook," he said. "Sir, this is an honor."

Ruby tried not to show her shock. Hera had told her about this man. She said he might be an ally to help Ruby save Cavaheim.

"The honor is all mine," Farook answered, his eyes not leaving Ruby's face. "To meet such an enigmatic guest." He turned to Hakk-Kahn. "And of course, it is always a pleasure to be in your presence, your grace." He bowed.

The Ord nodded back, still looking weary.

"Is there something wrong, your grace ?" Farook asked. "You look pale."

"There was a crowd. I had to fight them off. I'm..." Hakk-Kahn bent over, swaying.

The soldiers stared. Neither spoke.

"Get him to that bench over there," Farook ordered.

The soldiers hesitated. One nodded and stepped to the Ord's side. The other followed. They eased him towards the bench twenty feet away.

Farook turned to Democritus. "You need to get him some help."

"But Master Farook, I have orders not to leave the girl's side."

"I daresay you will be no help to her in a fight, and now your Ord escort is ill. I will stay with the girl. You will retrieve an Ord Medic. There's a shrine down the hill towards the city wall. Someone there can help you."

Democritus looked from Ruby to his superior. He nodded and ran off across the square.

One of the soldiers called out "Hey," as he ran away.

"He's off to get help," Farook said. "I'll watch over the girl until he returns. We'll appreciate this art together."

Farook turned to face the statue. Ruby stared at him.

"I am now speaking Ancient Greek," Farook muttered, not looking at her. The device in Ruby's ear provided the translation. "Few speak it, but I'm guessing your translator still works."

Ruby continued to stare.

"Don't look so surprised. Come stand by me. Pretend to be captivated by the statue."

Ruby wasn't sure if she should trust this man. The translator was a secret. She turned away from him and faced the statue.

"Good. I have no translator myself. Elric has only made the one for you."

Lady Chaos

"Who is Elric?" Ruby asked.

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand that."

If this man knew about Elric, he'd know about the translator. There was no reason to keep it secret. "Translate for me," she whispered.

A faint beep sounded in her ear. "<TRANSLATION ON>" said a tinny electronic voice.

Ruby tried again. "Who is Elric?"

The electronic voice translated. "Poios einei Elric". Ruby repeated the words.

"I do not know ," Farook answered. "He contacted me and a few of my cohorts soon after the world transformation. He's helped to keep our... activities secret. He showed us how to beat the Ord's surveillance."

"The Ord have you under surveillance?" She repeated her questions in Ancient Greek.

"We're under surveillance now. Keep your voice low and don't look at me."

"Where are the cameras?"

"The cameras are everywhere. If there are no witnesses around, they use tiny drone bugs, the shape and size of small scorpions."

"I haven't seen any scorpions."

"They keep well hidden. But they follow everyone. There's also the dream implants."

Ruby turned towards Farook, then quickly looked away. "What about them?"

"Every implant provides eyes and ears on the wearer and their surroundings."

Ruby considered this. Hera had an implant. The Ord knew where she was. And they had heard everything that Hera and Ruby had said to each other.

"That's how Basha knew so much about my plans. He was watching me the whole time."

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page published 5/22/2017