Children of Dawn - Chapter 1 - The Sky Fires
“Next on the list we have…” the young woman hesitated as she checked her extensive list of appointments. “…Glen Bekoma, from the Daretma District.” She confirmed, tracing the tip of her stylus down the pad, resting in her forearm.
“Daretma?” repeated the broad man as he sat forwards in his throne. “I didn’t think we had anyone coming from that far afield?”
“It was a last minute appointment, my Lord. He arrived in the city last night.” The woman explained.
The round, stone room fell into silence for a moment, enough to unsettle the presentable assistant.
“If you’d rather not see him I can send him away, it’s no trouble.” She promised, taking a quick step towards the doors.
“Come now Gabriella.” The Lord smirked. “I would hope you know me much better than that.” He slowly arose from his chair, pacing down to the large platform before it. “Let’s see what the man from the distant land brings.”
He lifted his arm out, his palm to the ceiling with his fingers raised. With a small twist of his wrist and knuckles, the room was flooded with loud clunking as the wide double doors slowly eased open. The doors creaked and groaned, heavy on their hinges. The white slabs glided perfectly over the cream, rippled marble floor.
As they opened, they revealed a large, wooden cart with a tattered burlap sheet draped over it. The fabric piled high in the middle, riddled with the bulges and points of its cargo. Despite the presence of the load, there was no sign of Glen Bekoma of Daretma.
Both the Lord and assistant looked on, puzzled. Surely a man could not make an appointment to meet his King and be this unprepared. The King took a slight breath, ready to summon Glen, wherever he was, to the meeting. As his lips parted, he caught a glimpse of movement with his shimmering, yellow eyes.
A young boy walked into the line of sight and towards the cart. He was slim and pale, to the extent where the broadest part of his arms were his elbows. His hair was short and messy, his face covered in dirt. Gabriella squinted, unable to decide if the marks on his cheeks were mud, or splatters of gravy from the soggy bun which he was wildly chomping at. ‘This is Mr. Bekoma?’ she thought to herself. From her notes she had expected someone much older and well-mannered.
She took a step towards the boy. Her glorious pearl heels tapping on the tiles. As the tap echoed around the dome, a voice called from beyond the door.
“Tel!” the croaky voice addressed.
The starving boy quickly snapped around, his back to the throne room. He gave a slight ‘what is it’ grunt in response.
“Don’t forget what I told you about your manners. Only speak when spoken to, and none of your sarcasm okay? This is the Third Original we are meeting with here, not some landlord.” The old man advised as he too shuffled into view, slightly hunched over as he brushed crumbs off his sleeves.
The King grinned in amusement and sloped back into his throne, resting on his elbow with a finger curled over his lips. He was not quite sure how, but the two visitors was completely unaware that the doors to the chamber had been opened.
“What difference does it make?” Tel challenged as he swallowed harshly. “If he’s a God or a landlord, doesn’t matter. No ones’ actually going to buy this heap o’ mess anyway.” He rocked his hand towards the trolley, clutching the remainder of his loaf tightly.
Gabriella stiffened with anxiety. She quickly darted her head between the two quarrelling men and her Lord, her eyes wide with worry. She could see clearly that her King was amused by the humoured look in his eyes and the curl to the corner of his lips. However she wasn’t sure how much further the others would go until they realised who was watching.
“Now look here lad.” The old man snarled, pointing a wrinkled, bony finger up at the boy’s face. “I took you in when your dad decided to run off, and all I ask for in return is a little respect.” The old man’s eyes jittered slightly, unable to look the young man in the eye. He quickly looked up, double taking to his right, making sure he was not mistaken. He looked passed the entrance and across the hall, his eyes locking with his Majesty’s. He fell quiet as his mouth hung open with shock and embarrassment, showing surprisingly well kempt teeth for a man wearing rags.
The King did not flinch from his relaxed pose, as the act was not yet over. Meanwhile, Gabriella began to relax as the argument would very soon run out of fire.
“Yeah well thanks for nothing, Gramps.” Tel snapped as he flung his snack at the ground.
With a sharp flick of his wrist, the King’s eyes focused down on the discarded bread. His irises waved with gorgeous light before settling once more. Out in the waiting room, Tel was taken back, almost tripping over his own ankles at the sight of his leftovers hovering inches above the floor. He chuckled in amazement and tapped his grandfather twice with the back of his hand, urging him to look.
“Glen Bekoma, I assume?” the King introduced, his voice shuddering through the curved pillars of the dome.
Tel jumped with fright as he span on his toes, wide-eyed and caught off guard. He looked upon his King for the first time. He could not help but feel like a street rat after gazing upon the magnificent red robes of the King, held tightly to his body by bands of fine leather and silver. Quickly, his admiration turned to resentment, as he felt mocked by the grinning host.
“Did we catch you at a bad time?” the King laughed.
“Errr…erm no, my King, your Grace. Please forgive my grandson and I. We are sorry for taking your time, truly.” Glen apologised as he heaved and tugged desperately at the handles of the cart. He looked to Tel, baring his teeth and hinting towards the other handle for help.
Tel took his time walking around the cart to the far handle, the whole time keeping his dipped gaze locked with the King’s.
“We were not expecting business to come so soon my Lord. Your infinite holiness.” Glen blessed again as the cart begin to slowly roll, with Tel now lending a hand.
The pair dragged the shrieking cart into the centre of the room before dropping its heavy weight back onto its supports. It hit the ground with a splitting groan.
“And my Lady, thank you.” Glen cheered as he shuffled over to Gabriella, brushing his grubby hands on his worn shirt.
“No thanks needed Mr. Bekoma. But we really should be moving along.” She hurried, holding her hands by her head in surrender. It was not that she was worried about the dirt, but she refused to accept thanks for doing something she was expected to do.
“Yes, yes of course.” He agreed, hurrying back to the carriage.” Erm…today my Lord, we have come to offer you a-”
“Why are you both so hungry?” the King silenced, his happy glare turning to an offended snarl. “Does the soil of the far lands not bare crop for you to eat? Or cattle for you to work? Or perhaps you'd just prefer to eat from my banquet?”
“N…no my King. Your soil the world over is more than sufficient, a miracle in fact.” Glen bowed low, trying to redeem his poor introduction.
“Then why the delay?” he pressed again.
“Well…you see my Lord..we…erm…” Glen hesitated, making sure that his answer would not cause upset to his King.
“We had to throw away all our food on the way here, my Lord.” Tel answered with a childish manner. “All of the food we brought was rotted by the muck Grampa puts in these things!” the boy was clearly upset that they had struggled without food, and had been received in this way.
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to lad?” The King demanded.
“Of course I do. You’re the builder of this world, the man at the top of it all, you pass your judgement on everyone else out there, don’t you? You just look out from your spire and know everyone else is beneath you!” Tel barked, pointing out of one of the huge divisions in the dome, out across the vast city and mountains. “That’s why you call yourself Wrath, right? The ruthless Original? ‘Cause you just don’t care what happens to us, so long as we keep out of your business.”
“Tel!” Glen wheezed.
“Perhaps it was your bitterness that ruined your crop.” Wrath challenged.
“The crops were fine my King, at first I mean.” Glen began. The King’s eyes managed to shift away from the boy for long enough to grace the old man with his attention. “We were about two weeks into our journey when the weather took a bit of a turn. We couldn’t afford for our product to get wet so we used the crop sacks to make a sheet. Forgive us my Lord, and forgive the boy. We don’t mean to take your precious time.”
The King rose from his throne and looked down to the hunched man. “So you thought it best to go without food than to abandon your journey? To bring this unruly dog of a child here to insult me, rather than to go home?” his voice was still rough and demanding as his neck tensed.
Glen began to shiver with lost focus, unable to construct a string of words which would see the King pleased again.
Gabriella looked to her King, stunned by his tone. He looked back to her with an angry stare. For a moment, she felt trapped and threatened, until suddenly his brow relaxed and his mouth peaked once again into a smile. “Then it seems I am already in your debt.” The King blessed.
Glen’s chest heaved as he straightened in surprise and relief, and he too found himself smiling. However Tel still wore his creased frown.
“And don’t worry about your boy Mr. Bekoma, growing men can get grumpy when they haven’t eaten.” He flicked his knuckles once again, and in a single flash, the half-eaten bun jolted back into Tel’s hand.
The touch of the warm, crusty meal against his hand startled him, but it was a welcome sensation. Almost without a second thought he began to eat again, slouching his shoulder against the wall of the cart. “I gotta tell you sir, people back home say you call yourself Wrath ‘cause you’re some sort of brute. But honestly, I don’t see it.” Tel praised as he shrugged, taking another bite.
“Sorry about him, my Lord. He’s a bit of a wild card, I’m still trying to teach him a thing or two.” Glen defended.
“Well he has a valid point. Folk from out your way don’t really see me in my true light. And besides, if half of my inner circle were as honest as him, things would flow a lot smoother, I can promise you that.” Wrath looked over to Gabriella to reassure her that he was not referring to her in particular. The pristine woman perked her lips, trying not to smile as she shuck her head.
“So!” Wrath began, clapping his strong hands together.” Why don’t you show us what you’ve brought with you?”
“Yes sir, of course!” Glen happily accepted, darting to the back of the cart and whipping the sheet from it. The cart held a mound of twirled and cylindrical containers, each crafted from combinations of painted animal hide and wooden supports
“Well…these are…new.” Wrath analysed in slight bafflement, looking over the load of vibrant colours.
“Now…it’s not perfect, but, from my formula, and my calculations these should be ready for the celebrations.”
“Yes but, what are they?” Gabriella prompted as she poked her head over Glens shoulder.
The old man blushed slightly at the thought of having such a beautiful woman so close to him.
“Try and focus Glen, I know she’s gorgeous but this is technically official business.” Wrath chuckled, his eyes flickering across to his assistant.
“Err…yes, sorry, your highness. Well, these…” Glen took a deep breath, tucking his shoulders back and pushing his chest out. “…are Sky Fires.”
“Sky Fires?” the King questioned, peering down slightly in both uncertainty and curiosity.
“Yes well…that’s the idea at least.”
“So in two days you are going to turn an idea into an actual creation?”
“Yes.” Glen nodded with an enthusiastic smile.
“How long have you been working on these?” Wrath picked a broad, twisting container from the stack as he awaited a reply.
“Hmm…ten years, give or take.” shrugged the old merchant.
Wrath looked at him in disbelief. “Ten years? And you plan to finish these in two days?”
“Well it’s the calculations you see with the materials and the cold, the height, and of course with the air and humidity levels along with the wind direction and and and-”
“Mr. Bekoma.” the King silenced, ending the man’s panicked ramble. “What exactly is left to do?”
“Well…they need to burn you see. But as they get higher, the ignition flame, it burns out. I’ve tried housing it inside the container but then it just explodes on the ground.”
“Explodes…” Gabriella butted in, unsure as to whether such a proposal would be beneficial to the parades success in the slightest.
Wrath however, had grown even more intrigued. He shuffled and observed the device and its structure, trying to piece together the puzzle of what ‘Sky Fire’ actually was. He noticed an old bit of scrap cane extruding from the base, mud still soaked against its stem. Suddenly, it all made sense to him.
A childish smile brightened his stubbled face as he turned away from his guests and headed towards one of the many balconies.
“He’s spent most of his time on these, even since I was little. I’ve told him they won’t work but he wouldn’t listen. And now, we have to get all the way back home again. Thanks old man.” Tel scorned with his mouth full.
“Don’t be so quick to dismiss an idea, Tel.” Wrath looked out over the view through one of the bare archways of his heightened room. It looked over an endless sea of lush, green forest, blending beautifully with the surrounding, white metropolis. With an almost petty whip of his arm, he tossed the device rocketing towards the sky.
Glen gasped with heart ache as he watched one of his well-tailored inventions soar away from him.
“You never know, things might just surprise you.” Wrath raised his palm, aiming it flat towards the gliding vessel. His arm tensed, but only slightly, giving birth to a shot of flame, blazing for a single instant. It burst from his hand, screeching across the sky and engulfing the Sky Fire.
Almost instantly, the device did just as Glen had warned. It exploded. Not into smoke and ash however, but into light. Rays and sparkles of blue and green light decorated the clear winter sky in a crackling cloud of spreading flares.
The sight of beauty brought a smile to all of the faces of those watching, even a slight tweak of Tel’s lip was enough to confirm the Sky Fire’s success.
“Gabriella, how do you feel right now?” Wrath asked his assistant.
“I’m not too sure…” she answered in an almost dream state manner. “Happy I would say.”
“Perfect.” the King decided, looking into the wide eyes of the woman as she joined him by the ledge, cuddling the notepad against her slim, white suite.
“Beautiful.” she whispered.
“I know.” Wrath agreed, catching Gabriella’s stare for a second before turning to his guests. “Glen! How many of these do you think you can make in two days?”
“Well I have twelve here, so at a push maybe another three?” he looked to Tel, silently asking for his assistance. Tel joined his elder in an excited nod.
“I need two hundred.” the King ordered.
“Two hundred?!” Glen exclaimed accidently, quickly lowering his volume. “But…sir…that’s not possible.”
“You will have the finest workers I have at my command to work alongside you, I’m trusting you to put on a show for us all.”
Glen sighed with mild doubt. “Well…if you say that it can be done, I will make it so.”
“I know you will. Gabriella. Send word to this man’s family.” the King peered out the corner of his eye to wait for a reaction from his guests. “Tell them that they must move to the capital immediately, I believe we have an empty spire or two that they could own.”
To Wrath’s surprise, Tel gave the first reaction of the pair. His smile showed a set of straight, white teeth as he looked out to the horizon, and the tall, elegant towers that reached up from it. “I’ll be living there?” He bellowed, not quite believing it.
“Thank you my lord, thank you, thank you.” Glen wept with happiness, quickly hurrying and shaking the King's hand vigorously.
“You can thank me when your family are here for your big moment. Now get going, there is much left to do.”
With this, the couple dragged the cart out of the room, with new found energy and ambition, laughing happily amongst themselves.
Just as the door was closing, Wrath overheard the elated tone of the young man. “You did it! They actually work!”
The door slammed shut, leaving the King and his assistant alone. Gabriella managed to peel her gaze away from the archway to take the side of her leader. “How did you know it would work?”
“I didn’t.” he confessed. “But when you have lived as long as I have, it’s hard to ignore the opportunity to see something new.