The Fate of Acolyte Konlar

Acolyte Konlar was, to put it frankly, bored.
He stood up to stretch his legs, and wandered away from his seat beside the great brass telescope to stoke the fire. The night was cold, as it always was. Brother Mantar had told him that the bitter temperatures of this tiny Realm were due to the close proximity of the wildlands, but that didn’t make it any more bearable, and Konlar was grateful for the fire.
The truth was, he was grateful for the chance to join the Eloytian way, and he knew that it required truly humbling periods of servitude, but he still wished he didn’t have to spend five years sitting on a Realm scarcely forty miles across which was riddled with nothing but towering mountains and impenetrable forests filled with vicious predators.
There were upsides, of course. There was a small colony of various different people about a mile from the outpost, and Konlar had met Rianla there, a pretty girl only three years shy of his twenty-two years. She had made his life much more bearable, and he looked forwards to the end of his watch so that he could return to his little wooden house where she would be waiting with a nice fire, some simple food and… well, he wouldn’t be cold tonight.
He glanced at the hourglass and sighed. Less than an hour left on watch, then whichever poor soul who had annoyed Mantar enough to watch the skies on the other side of the Realm, where the other outpost was situated, could take over.
Konlar sat back in his chair, leaned back, and stared at the glass dome of the ceiling, misted up as it was by the fire. He could still make out the roiling, jagged shape of the wildlands, filling the entire sky, looking very much like angry thunderheads. Konlar chuckled to himself. When he’d first been assigned here, his fearful eyes had been glued to the skies through the day and the first three hours after dark, until the fearful spectre of the wildlands slid away and into the watchful eyes of the other station as the Realm slowly turned to face that benighted expanse. He couldn’t understand how people could live here, on the very doorstep of the most dreaded place on the Solar Sea.
But the months had gone by, and what Konlar had known intellectually had slowly sunk in. the Arakul were gone. they’d disappeared forty years before. He’d asked Mantar why they kept watch when there was no enemy to watch for. Mantar had looked grim. ‘They went away to fight another war’ he said darkly, ‘but they’ll be back’.
Konlar didn’t believe it for a moment. The Arakul were like clockwork. They attacked every twenty years without fail, or they didn’t at all.
Still, he appreciated the precaution. Just not now.
Konlar leaned back and imagined his coming meal and evening spent with Rianla, and life seemed a lot more tolerable.
Which was when the warning augurs began to sing. Konlar shot upright in shock. The sound was gentle but insistent, like a distant choir. It wasn’t the sound itself that shocked Konlar. It was what it signified.
It meant that the enchantments placed on the great telescope had picked up movement.
Konlar hurried to the telescope and put his eye to the lens. For a long moment the image swam as he focused on the boundaries of the wildlands. Even then, for an agonising second of doubt, he could see nothing but churning eddies of that terrible land.
Then he saw it. A black dart of metal, like a predatory bird, growing larger as it sailed along a fast current out of the maelstrom.
An Arakul attack frigate.
Konlar was still reeling from the shock of seeing the vessel, the shock of knowing that he had been terribly wrong and knowing that in little more than an hour he would likely be fighting for his life, when he saw the second ship as it burst from the boundary of the wildlands, lyda-spume flying from its hull as it ploughed out into the civilised lands.
Then the third. And the forth. Konlar watched in numb shock as they emerged, not individually or even by the dozen, but by the hundred. By the thousand. Uncountable numbers of Arakul warriors. And the worst was the sinking feeling of dread as he realised that every ship he saw, filling the sky as they did, was a scout ship. They were roving ahead of the main fleet.
The realisation cannoned Konlar into action, and he lunged to the warning bell. He rang it with all the fury he could muster, whilst shouting at the top of his lungs.
“The enemy come! To arms! Bring forth the seers!”
The last words were out of his mouth before he even realised he was forming them. He felt a thrill of terror as he recognised his own subconscious reasoning.
The vast armada of scout vessels were fast moving, and riding fast currents. They would be on top of the tiny Realm in an hour, if that. There was no time to retreat, no time to evacuate. The best that they could hope to do was send a warning to the civilised Realms of the Solar Sea before they were overwhelmed. He felt himself shaking in terror as he realised that his life could now be counted in minutes. Perhaps if he fled, took to the deep trackless woods, then the Arakul would miss his presence, and move on, leaving him alive…
He felt a pang of shame. And then, suddenly, the terror fled from him. All his life, he had dreamed of being part of the Eloytian way, of protecting the vulnerable and upholding the right. He wouldn’t flee from that now.
It became very clear.
Acolyte Konlar looked through the telescope again, at the vast fleet of oncoming ships, even as he heard the outpost come to life with shouted orders and running feet. He picked up his glave, and felt its reassuring presence in his hands.
Konlar had a last wistful thought of his home, the fire, of beautiful Rianla, and of the hearty meal that he would never have. He gave a last sigh of regret.
Then he shouldered his weapon and went to meet his doom.

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Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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