Chara: Phase 1: Chapter 2

Chara: Phase 1: Veya’s Ladder

Chapter 2:

As the shouting grew louder, the pain in Ios’s side intensified. The arrow didn’t seem to hit anything vital, or so he thought at least. He did question its design though. It was made entirely of steal, even the shaft. His people did not create their arrows in such a way.

His campsite was so very close though. The flames are likely what drew his attackers towards him. He hoped so much that he had more time. It wasn’t even morning yet, and already he was facing some new threat.

His continued loss of blood also made him forget about his encounter with the thing that called itself Eredsh.

Instead, he paid close attention to the shouting that went on in the distance. It was coming closer to him, he thought. Two voices, both male, and both shouting at one another like drunken idiots. They were speaking Veya’s language, so he didn’t understand a word of what they spoke.

Soon they emerged from the shadows far away, walking closer to Ios with great trepidation.

Ios pulled his firearm from his side, wincing in pain as he did so.

Both had dark skin and grey clothing, with thin armor and strange goggles. One was shorter than the other by quite a bit, he had short braided hair, while the tall one was quite bald. The short one seemed ill equipped, with a blade seethed at his side, while the tall one had a firearm slung over his shoulders, and something attached to his left wrist.

The two seemed to be far less joyous when they say Ios brandishing the firearm. Immediately, the tall one began shouting at the short one, and pushed him behind him. It was hard to see, but Ios noticed the short one wasn’t of a slightly diminutive stature, but rather, he was still a child. Looked like a teenager to him.

Ios lowered the weapon, and put it away, and put both his hands at his side.

“I mean no harm,” he said, quite sure that both men did not understand him.

“How did you get that weapon?” the older one spoke. His accent was still thick, but it came as quite a relief to Ios that he understood him.

“A gift.”

“From who?”

“I have denounced my god and people, and sworn to protect one of your kind. She gave it to me.”

“Why should I trust you?” the tall one replied.

“You’ve already wounded me greatly. If you do not believe me, then let me die. She is at my camp, hopefully still resting.”

Their talk was put on hold when suddenly everything erupted into a bright flash. A wave of sound washed over him, and he could hear nothing but his head throbbing. He felt something probing at his side for a moment, but quickly tried only to focus on bringing his senses back up to speed.

Through blurry eyes, Ios saw Veya holding his gun, and pointing at the two men, who also seemed just as dumbstruck as he was. She was screaming fiercely, and neither of them dared to move.

Veya turned, and reached into her pack, and pulled out some strange thing Ios wasn’t quite paying attention to. She graced his cheek with her hand, and she said something he knew to be words of comfort. For a moment, he forgot about the pain. A very brief moment, though. Veya pulled the arrow out in one swift motion, and quickly lifted his shirt and went to put some strange fluid on Ios’s wound. He screamed at the pain, but noticed the bleeding had stopped very quickly.

After most of the pain had faded, Veya set her things down, and collapsed on top of Ios, taking him into her arms, and crying. There were a great deal of things Ios wanted to focus on, but he found his mind lost, as he looked out at the moon obscured by the trees overhead.

Veya moved away from him, and went back to the two men, pointing the weapon she gave to Ios at them both. They raised their hands, and Ios understood a few of the words she said to them. He had heard them often when he was at war. They were very unkind words.

She turned to Ios and said something, but he was very confused. Likely the loss of blood helped to make him lightheaded, but he was still trying to wrap his mind around the revelations Eredsh brought forth, wondering if that was nothing more than some strange dream.

“She wants to know if you can stand,” the older man said.

“I… I think so…”

The man relayed this to Veya.

Trying to stand was likely a bad idea on Ios’ part. The pain in his side was still horrific, despite his wound being sealed by whatever it was Veya poured on him. She came to brace him, but bumped into the very wound she’d helped fix, and Ios winced and groaned, as Veya began to whisper apologies he didn’t know.

“She says you saved her,” the older man spoke.

“She saved me first,” Ios replied. “I owe her my life… twice now, it appears.”

The soldier in Ios refused to think the situation was calm now. He thought Veya felt this way as well. She stuck close to Ios, making sure to put distance between the two men, and she still kept a tight grip on the firearm.

“You must understand… we saw a pale skinned man, we could not assume outright that you were not hostile.” The older man motioned for the younger one to step forward again.

“Since the great collapse, my son and I have done our best to eke out a living in this place. But it is harsh, and too close to your lands.”

“your son?” Ios assumed the tall one was obviously older, but he didn’t strike him as being old enough to have a teenage son.

“Yes. I am Qualane, and this is my son, Yaekey. I apologize that our meeting has started with violence.”

Yaekey stepped closer, and asked something of Veya. It seemed an innocent question, but Veya spat venom at the boy with her reply. Qualane also seemed harsh with the boy, demanding he step back again and remain silent it seemed.

“Where are you going?” Qualane asked.

“Freouth.”

Everyone went silent. Qualane stared long at Ios.

“Why would you go to this place?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I saw something… in a dream I believe.”

“About you or the girl?” the now suspicious man asked.

“Me,” Ios lied.

“Do you understand what this could entail?”

“You are familiar with something that calls itself ‘Eredsh?” Ios asked.

“Meant to be legend. Many things were meant to be legend, but the great collapse has made fools of all my kind.”

“Do not think ill of me,” Ios walked forward a bit, and the pain was still quite immense. “I will let nothing happen to the girl. Her life is worth far more than my own. My people hunt me as well. I am resigned that my life shall not be long lived.”

Qualane turned and spoke to Veya. When he finished, she turned to Ios, with tears in her eyes.

“What did you say?”

“I told her that you are likely to die for her. That your journey will be short, while hers will be long.”

Veya spoke something, but not for Qualane to translate, she looked at Ios, and spoke directly to him.

“She says it needn’t be this way,” the man translated anyways. “She asks that you travel with her to some other place far from the mountains. She says she can keep you safe.”

“Much is undecided…” was all Ios could say. Qualane relayed the message to Veya, and she hugged Ios, saying quite a bit more to him. The older man did not translate this time, and instead motioned for his Son to come near.

“No matter what,” he said to the two first in Ios’s language, than in Veya’s, “your path lies east. You will see tragedy like none you could imagine.”

They went to move past Ios and Veya, and she kept her weapon pointed at them the entire time, until they vanished into the forest. When she seemed calm again, she handed the weapon back to Ios. He noticed the men were heading towards where Ios encountered his old friend no more than hours ago, and wondered if the gunfire was what drew out the father and son in the first place. They were gone now though, so he cared little for where those two were going. He’d remember the encounter not for the words spoken, but the wound in his side.

It was still well before sunrise, so they went back to their makeshift camp. Ios tried to tell Veya to rest first, that he would keep watch, but considering his wound, he wasn’t really in any position to remain alert and able to fight. He hunched his back against a tree, and fell asleep within seconds. Veya let him be, and woke him well after the sun had risen.

She seemed to be in high spirits considering the night they had. They had little in the way of supplies, but she wanted to have what she viewed as a traditional meal to start the day. Ios went to grab at the food right away, but she smacked his hand and yelled at him. She held her own hand briefly over her plate, and muttered something, then moved her hand near her chest. When she opened her eyes, she noticed Ios staring at her, dumbfounded. Veya seemed highly agitated, and did the same blessing for Ios’s food in his stead. Then she began to eat.

They spent most of their morning making little progress eastward. Ios was trying to endure the pain in his side so they could keep pressing their way through the forest, but his injury was not allowing him to do such. They spent far more time resting in the shade than they did walking. The chilled air started to burn Ios’s lungs, he was so exhausted.

Veya tried to keep his mind off the pain. She started to work with him to get across basic understanding of some words and phrases between them. What he called a tree and what she called it. What he called the sky, and what she called it. The only words of her people he ever bothered to learn were harsh and terrible things, things that would allow him to warn his own people of impending attack, or what kind of weapons they were using. Now he was just trying to wrap his head around basic things and concepts, like food, how to call out for help, or the very slight difference in her language for identifying gender. This task was also incredibly trying for Ios. There were a few consonants in her language that his people had no analog for. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t make the sounds come out right. Each time he messed up a word or phrase, Veya would giggle in a way that made him feel horrifically embarrassed. Considering his wound, their lack of progress towards the east, and now this, Ios considered this to be a very bad day. It didn’t help that she seemed to take to his language very easily. Any time he had a challenge, she would understand the concept immediately.

Much to his dismay, this kept going for four more days. By the third, he was feeling far more capable and they made decent strides towards their destination, and there was still no signs of pursuit from Ios’s people as well. Veya insisted on working more to bridge the language barrier between them, and even when they were marching their way through the woods, she would press him for new words for them to exchange. While it was easier for them to communicate basic concepts now, decent conversation was still impossible. This troubled Ios, as he wanted some way to speak to her about the vision he had.

Entirely unsure if he would even be willing to trust that vision, he remained silent on the subject. Veya seemed to be taking point, so he thought she was guiding him to wherever it was she thought they would both be safe. She and Qualane both seemed to think Freouth was not a place any person would wish to go. Even though Ios demanded the creature Eredsh not harm Veya in any way, he didn’t entirely trust it. That seemed reasonable to him though, considering he wasn’t entirely sure if that was just some lapse of sanity he had suffered.

While sitting for lunch once more, Ios looked to a tree, and noticed and owl perched on a thin branch, looking at both him and Veya. He thought it suspicious that an owl would be out hunting in the middle of the day, but what had him truly uneasy was it was the same breed he had seen only a few nights ago. He pointed to it, and called for Veya’s attention.

She said a few things, then looked at Ios, and said two words in his own language.

“Bad thing.”

He pulled the weapon out, and pointed at the bird, which seemed completely un-phased by what was transpiring below him. Veya tried to get him to lower it, but he looked at her, a dark intent in his eyes, and muttered to her.

“Eredsh. Bad thing.”

She seemed to understand the gravity of his words, but her eyes were still more filled with confusion. Ios knew that she didn’t really believe him. He lowered the weapon, and walked a little ways towards the owl.

“You will not hurt her!” he screamed, quite aware that he looked like a lunatic shouting damnation at a bird. Veya gasped though when he said that.

He taught her the words his people used to identify gender. She knew the vision he had was not about his own death anymore.

He made sure to speak in her language when he turned to face her, his face full of guilt and sorrow.

“Freouth. You,” was what he managed to convey. He pointed to the center of his chest, and continued by saying, “bad thing.”

Veya didn’t say a thing, and the owl flew away.

The rest of the day was spent in silence, and Veya would not look to Ios at all. That didn’t entirely matter to him though. His shame faded when he saw smoke in the distance, high past the trees, like clouds of ill omen.

It was another two days spent in silence before he understood where it was coming from.

They stepped out of the woods, and Ios beheld a sight he had never seen in his life. Despite his wound, he began to run. His injury was almost healed, but there was still a dull ache as he sped through the thinning woods. The remaining trees obscured what lay beyond the forest, and it seemed like a mouth of evil was biting down on all things good. Even Veya seemed distressed, she was shouting some things he understood, and others he did not. Either way, none of what she said seemed good.

When they finally broke away, Ios felt himself on ground that seemed too solid. Around him, buildings of strange make were sparsely laid amongst the landscape in ruins. Some had been reduced to rubble, others were missing roofs or more, very few windows remained unbroken. Everything seemed crafted of metal, or assisted by it. It was entirely alien to him, and it was in ruins. He tried to imagine what this town must have looked like when it was alive, and the contrast between destruction and life in his mind shook him to his core. This was like nothing he knew.

He pulled out the weapon Veya had given to him, and looked at it. The same uniformity it had, the town seemed to have as well. Almost as though being in ruins was a freedom for the construction of this place.

“Not some life…” he muttered, trying to remember things he said long ago as he stared at the weapon. “All life.”

Veya fell to her knees, and began to sob. She only stopped to utter curses to her god and her people.

Far away, Ios saw mountains.

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