Chapter 4 - Arrival

Chapter 4 - Arrival

A Chapter by VassD
"

Ania enters the capital, more is learned about Alliania, and another character is introduced.

"
Ania sat on the tip of the ledge, staring out at the scene before her. The capital city, Magani, sat splayed across the grasslands, huge walls closing it off the hills around it. Roads from every direction connected with various gates, the city at its heart, reminding her of nothing so much as a gigantic spider at the center of its web. Ania shivered at the analogy.
Mistress, I still say I should accompany you to you destination.
"Hakem, I told you. There are too many people down there. They would drive me out before I got anywhere near the Knights' Compound if they saw me with a wolf.  Just wait here.  If I make it in, I will tell them about you and ask how best to get you inside."  Over the last few weeks, Ania had gotten used to her lunar companion, not jumping anymore when Hakem's voice appeared in her head without warning. 
What she hadn't gotten used to was the way that Alliania's letters were perfectly orchestrated to her thoughts.  At almost every shelter, there was a symbol, a cavity, and a letter, just like in the first one, and each letter answered the questions that had occurred to her since the last letter.  She never answered any questions about her wolf, because Hakem answered them the instant they came to her.  She never explained what the companion was for, but she never had to, because Hakem answered them as they came into being. Those answers that he himself knew, that is. 
Once, she had begun wondering why the cavities hadn't appeared before this. She had had the crystal for a long time, and she had never seen the symbols before. That night, she had found a letter saying that the power of the crystal reacted to the presence of the necklace, revealing the symbols. And this eerie way of answering questions continued throughout her entire month-long journey.
And now she was here. Her dream so close to fruition that she felt she could reach out and touch it.   Ania stared up at the stars, trying to see some glimpse of eternity, some clue as to the future.
She blinked. Her favorite constellation, the Warrior, looked different.  It was in the same place, it was just as bright as it had been before, but something was wrong. She looked around it, and saw that the Hawk was gone from its place. She looked at the Warrior once more, and saw that the Hawk and the Warrior were on top of each other, joined at what would be the shoulders. 
Alliania had once told her of this.  It only happened for one night every eight years.  She had said that when it happened, for this one night a new constellation was born.  It was called the Guardian Angel.
Ania shook her head at the irony of this being the one night the Angel appeared. As she stood, Hakem rose beside her, lifting his left foreleg.  It was the same leg as had been injured in the fight with the other wolf.  He hadn't wanted her to "waste time" looking after his injury when she should be seeing to her own, but Ania had won him over, telling that she rode all day, which would not aggravate her wounded leg as badly as running would aggravate his. He had conceded the necessity of this only with great difficulty.
"Come, Hakem.  Tomorrow our new life begins."
Hakem added a grim thought that mirrored her own.  Or ends.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

*Ania rode slowly through Magani atop Jimande, staring at the throngs of people milling about like nothing so much as a bared ant colony, running around, thriving on the seeming insanity, certain that all were aware of the meaningless activities that occupied them day after day, year after year, generation after generation, when in reality, all that any were aware of was their own certainty. And to the onlooker, it was painfully obvious the desperation that drove that certainty.
But desperation for what?
She glanced once more to the map of Magani that had been with the last letter. Ania had spent hours gazing at it, memorizing the streets her aunt had walked, but now that she was here, she checked the map constantly, afraid to go astray in this mass of seething humanity. Ania's home had been on the outskirts of a small city, but nothing Ania had ever seen had ever even taken up a quarter of the size of this living breathing capitol.
With a start, Ania realized she was passing Academy Row, the huge series of complexes that housed the five training schools:  The Forge, The Arcanius, The University, The Bryx, and The Zairem.  All of her sisters except Irinel had or were training at one or the other of these. Ehmita had attended The Forge, where the Army was trained, and was already in her fourth year of full service.  Xanya, having attended the Arcanius, was now a TruMage in her second year.  Irisel had just begun her work in the Archives of the Palace after attending the University.  Mayimere would graduate in one year from The Bryx and then go into a two year apprenticeship, as had all the others.  Celebeth had begun training at The Zairem as a future diplomat three years ago. 
Beyond this, the Temple of the Heavenly Lord and Lady stood, where Irinel had been accepted as a Priestess of the Angels two years ago. Just ahead of this shining structure, the true reason the Magani was called the Jeweled City rose above the city. 
The Palace of the Royal House of Koronea, and the Knights' Compound. 
Ania stared at the beautiful buildings that had been the Knights' home for over a thousand years. Actually, they were truly the same building, just on two different levels. At the center of the City, the Palace soared, a huge circular complex, almost a thousand yards in diameter.  Set at a lower level, the Knights' Compound was a larger circle surrounding that. If the entire Jeweled City was a wheel, and the Palace was the axle, the whole of Magani and Koronea beyond revolving around it, the Knights Compound was the hub, holding the axle to its course, preventing it from splintering, and if the axle were to break, the hub would hold the wheel to what remained until it was repaired and once more set on its way.
Once more jolted out of her reverie, Ania saw the front doors before her. Looking at the borders, she saw the hawk's head repeated many different ways. Carved into the dark oak doors was the Knights' Pledge, copied down in the secret language her aunt had taught her so long ago.  In the center, a large image of a diamond was laid into the huge double doors, made up of thousands of small diamonds, inlaid in a beautiful mosaic. Ania saw with a smile that at the right angle, the diamonds also formed the symbol of the hawks' head. She took a deep breath, dismounted Jimande, and opened the doors. 
As soon as the doors shut behind her, all of the noise ceased. The insane chatter of all those people was covered up by the perfect silence. She looked around, and at first glance, this part of the compound seemed deserted.  But at a closer inspection, she saw that smoke rose from almost all the chimneys. The open ended blacksmith's shop revealed a forge flaring with burning life.  When a small shadow moved, she realized that the people who lived in the Compound were just as adept at moving silently as were the Knights. 
She walked for what seemed an eternity in that silently alive world, when, out of nowhere, a hooded figure appeared, and for a moment Ania thought it was one of the Knights, but then realized that the cloak was a dappled brown-grey, no the solid black of the Knights.  It must be one of the others who live in the Compound, she thought.  When the man--for it was a man--drew back his hood, she was both relieved and terrified.  
He was wearing a headpiece that showed a galloping horse, identifying him as one of the ZämmenTrage--or stable workers--under the HorseMaster of the Knights.  What truly held her gaze, though, was the look of barely restrained rage and fury threatening to overwhelm her in his eyes. 
"Where did you get that horse?" the man hissed through gritted teeth.  Ania was so terrified by this unexplained action that she didn't think to compose a reasonable answer.
"Someone gave it to me." She saw immediately that this was the exact wrong thing to say.  The evasiveness of her answer just enraged the man further.  Her eyes widened as she saw his hand clench over the hilt of a knife, and she could see that it was not a thoughtless grip.  This man was clearly as skilled as her aunt, or even herself, at handling a weapon. Jimande didn't react at all to the murderous look in the man's eyes, nor the fear clearly evident in Ania's. With her eyes still on the knife she elaborated.
"My aunt was a Knight.  When she died five years ago, she left Jimande to me."  When she said Jimande's name, his face, once a mask of terrifying rage, let a flicker of doubt through his iron-clad façade. 
"A Knight?" All Ania could manage was a quick nod. "Five years ago?  Making her a casualty of the Joconan Invasion?"  
At this, Ania spoke. "That's right.  She died at the Battle of Je BlizteFälle." Emotion again coursed through the man's face, but this time it was pain, not rage, that lit the fires in his eyes. 
"What was your aunt's name?"  The man's voice was strangled, as if he had to force himself to speak.
"Alliania Kyatei."  Ania was scared.  Not because the man had threatened her, but because of the look of intense pain in the man's eyes when she spoke the name.  What was this man to her aunt?  What was it that caused him so much anguish to hear the name of a woman who died five years ago?  She was just about to ask him when he spoke again.
"If you are her niece, that would mean you are Ania."  Once again, she was struck speechless by this man, but this time it was only a moment before she was able to once again give voice to her thoughts. 
"How do you know my name?  And how do know so much about my aunt? Who are you?"
The man seemed to come out of a reverie, shaking himself slightly.  He took a deep breath, and spoke.  "My name is Lyem Arganesh. I am one of the head ZämmenTrage here in the Compound.  I know your name because before the Battle of Je BlizteFälle, Lady Alliania called a good number of us in and told us that a young girl named Ania would be coming to the Compound, most likely in seven to eight years, wanting to train as a Knight.  We didn't expect you for another year, at least--that is why I was so angry at first.  I didn't know who you were, and you had the Lady's Companion, and I…" The man--Lyem, she told herself--trailed off into silence, running a hand over his face, now suddenly looking very vulnerable, nothing like the terrifying shadow that had stood before her moments before.  Now that he had let down his mask, Ania saw that Lyem was only as old as her sister Xanya.  She was amazed that someone so young could be one of the head ZämmenTrage.  He had shock of dark black-brown hair, and green eyes as bright as emeralds.  He was very tall, almost as tall as her father, Daninite, who stood almost head and shoulders over everyone else in her family.   And now that she looked closer, Ania saw that Lyem was obviously good with weapons, because he had at least ten knives on his belt or tucked into sheathes on his thighs, all of them in easy to reach locations that he could grab quickly. Strapped to his back was an unstrung longbow, and Ania could faintly see the outline of his hip quiver full of arrows underneath his cloak.  Even so, she still had a few doubts about this man who seemed to know so much about her.
"You still haven't answered my last question.  How do you know so much about my aunt?" Ania watched as Lyem once more dug himself out of memories unknown to answer her question. 
"Everyone here knew your aunt."  Lyem gave a quiet laugh.  "This entire complex, enormous as it is, has held the same families for generation--not counting the Knights, of course--so whenever anything changes, everyone knows.  We're like a huge family.  The people here have devoted their lives to serving the members of the Covenant, and we always know whenever anything changes.  
"But your aunt was different.  With Lady Alliania, it was more than just being able to put a name to the face walking past her, more than being able to remember whose armor or horse you were taking care of.  The people here loved her.  She was… the epitome of everything we work for.   We loved her, and she loved us."  
Ania was speechless. Here, for the first time in her life, she had heard someone other than herself and Xanya say something good about her aunt. And it wasn't just that they respected her, or that she was a good Knight, but they said they loved her. They cared about a woman that the rest of the world forgot.  A woman that was despised by her own family.  There was no longer any doubt.  This is where she was supposed to be.



© 2012 VassD


Author's Note

VassD
I think I may have used the word "reverie" a little too much in this one... But then again, I wrote it when I was a freshman and was half asleep. Not much of an excuse, but an excuse nonetheless.

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Added on November 29, 2011
Last Updated on April 25, 2012
Tags: knights, covenant, fantasy, novel


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VassD
VassD

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I'm a fledgling author with dreams about as big as one of Robert Jordan's books. Maybe more than one on top of each other. I love writing fantasy and science fiction stories (No matter how long a piec.. more..

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A Chapter by VassD