Atemu picked up his fallen sword and sheathed it back in its black scabbard. First, he just went out to pick some herbs and then be done with it, second, he helped an idiot who got his bum kicked, and third, said idiot ran off when he lost control of himself. Alsharis.
He might not believe that the other had such power but then again people are shocking. Was that really the same man who helped him before?
“Well that didn’t go as expected," Atemu huffed. "What a way to meet someone."
He looked at the cracks along the ground where the dead bodies of the thieves were swallowed, the rose stems jutting against the crying willows like a spear; the aftermath of the fight that commenced earlier.
Hmm. Rose-head. Suits him indeed.
Atemu wanted to go home this instant because looking at his stained hands, black trenchcoat and bone colored pants? It made his breath tremble and his heart quiver.
He knelt down and picked up the trampled elven flowers, ready to leave the area. Though, he paused and turned his eyes at the fallen sword of the hotheaded governor. Should he or should he not?
Atemu picked it up, slicing the air to get rid of the blood from the sword then left, sweet smells of fragrance masking the stench of rust.
Atemu placed away the elven flower on the cluttered shelf that were filled with herbs and jars, placing the sword of the governor on his wooden study table littered with scrolls. Sunlight poured through the window in front of it, scattering soft patterns across the surface.
Him and the governor, had met once in Antheia. Though not at a fortunate circumstances. He had been desperate back then, running away from his own home town. It had been a miracle when the governor helped him obtain something that was a product of his home.
Atemu's hand tightened 'round the jeweled handle of his sword. Just a few months in and someone already made him want to pull his hair out. Why did the gods have to put him under the governor's reign?
“Huh? Did I forget to buy camomille leaves again? I swear I put them here somewhere—“ Atemu cut himself off. Great, another trip to town. Wonderful.
First, change of clothes. He smelled like iron and copper rust. Or he could go tomorrow or the next day. He was much too exhausted to deal with anything.
He snatched his money pouch and left his study hall in a jiffy, going to his room and throwing himself on his bed. Uncaring if the sheets soaked with blood.
He could change that another day.
Atemu (who was dressed in a fresh black sleeveless coat, white long sleeve, and white pants) sat at a nearby hill by a shady large tree when nights and days cycled in and out, watching the camp nearby that had knights and mages running about, hands full with supplies and providing the rising town filled with bright colours rise; others trained and clashed swords, burnt soil and ashes wafting through the once clear air.
Atemu's violet eyes scanned the area. He was far enough not to be noticed but close enough to observe what everyone did since he was at an elevated area. Mages and knights in particular, did not like looking up.
He tilted his head to the side when two mages, who were a little far from the group, somewhere in the corner of the makeshift huts exchanged something that oddly looked black.
Atemu curled his fingers near the scimitar and short sword that was situated by his side, drawing a symbol on the shady soft ground.
The shades underneath him morphed and twisted, turning blacker than night before they shot away and raced down the hill. Lo and behold, Atemu saw within dark sight what the two mages were holding. A flower with broad, flat-tipped petals that reminded Atemu of night and a money pouch that jingled with coins.
Atemu didn't understand why they were talking animatedly fast, expression complicated as if they were in a marathon.
He sighed. The shadows set him another sight. This time, on the governor who was sitting on a wooden table with his nose buried deep in a scroll. Why he was at the side of the camp and not in a hut or tent in the first place, Atemu had no idea but—
Atemu could return the sword that he so kindly dropped from the fight. He picked up the swords and placed them on the sword holder strapped around his waist.
Atemu took in a deep breath and let himself feel the shades that the tree provided. In a blink of an eye, his countenance began to dissolve like the dark waters, becoming one with the earth.
A shadow that belonged to no one rippled and jumped from place to place well into the camp before halting behind the table that the governor was sitting.
The shadows twisted and morphed again, falling away and revealing Atemu who stepped forward from behind the unsuspecting governor's cape cladded back.
The governor let out a yelp, scroll flying out of his hands as he turned around, fist flying.
Atemu tilted his body away, hissing. "Do you always greet people with your fist?"
Many pairs of eyes were now on them, a few who had noticed definitely now alert like a cat.
"Your Highness? Who's that?" A voice asked.
"Your Highness, what are you doing? Don't just stand there!"
Your Highness? This man was royalty? He was not just some governor who was assigned to this rundown place that was now beginning to thrive and pick back up from their fallen place?
"Do you always pop out of nowhere?" The governor raised his hand for the whispers to stop and squinted. Then he went all round eyed and dropped his hands. "It's you."
"Who else?" Atemu asked, taking out the short sword and presenting it. "You dropped this."
Henry stared at the sword then at Atemu, crossing his arms. "Why are you returning this? I thought I made my point clear that I didn't want to see you."
"By running away? I see not the point of your explanation. However, I'll let it slide since you were shaken a few days ago. Take your sword and you will hear no more from me."
The governor stood rooted in his place.
Atemu sighed and placed the sword on the scroll filled table. He turned away, ready to leave.
Apparently, the governor was not finished.
"What happened to your hand?"
Atemu quickly took his hand, hiding it from the governor's sight. "Nothing of importance. Goodbye, rose-head."
"My name is not, Rose-head, you know," the governor said with a childish undertone. "I'm not a flower, you son of a clothpole!"
"Your hair reminds me of one," Atemu said with a shrug. "Tell me though, what is a black flower with flat-tipped petals called?"
The place was suddenly a little too... Exposing. The sounds of swords and blasting magic muffled like they were underwater.
"A black flower with flat tipped petals? Be more specific, will you Lilac-Head?"
"And here you say you're not like a flower when you give me flowery nicknames," Atemu grumbled, washing his dark hands on his face. "Dark like the starless night sky with broad, flat-tipped petals that look like blunt daggers."
"...The black dahlias? What about those?"
Atemu shrugged, looking back at the governor who was now staring at him with a confused expression.
"Nothing. I was merely curious on what their significance were to your culture and symbol. A strange gift one might say." Atemu strode away from where he had once been. His business was done here.
The purple haired man ducked in a nearby corner and vanished from sight, looking at his fingertips that looked like blackened charcoal with little wisps escaping them.
Atemu stood at the edge of a sea cliff, looking at the thunderous crashing waves below, no rocky surface in sight. It wasn't much too deep, but it looked like it could break bones and make you sink.
The cool winds blew and whipped salty spritz of water, thin blades of grass cushioning his feet. Trees parted behind him like curtains, all of them bearing blue colored bell blossoms that smelled like the morning dew. A contrast to the salty taste in the air.
He never knew that the governor was equal in standing like that of the Sehzadar or the Pa'roh. Another thing to mull over, he guessed.
He took a deep breath, eyes closed, listening to the surroundings around him, every whisper of the wind and—
A pang was sent straight to his heart. Atemu grunted, grasping his chest at the sudden flick from his sentient powers. “What in the ever loving—“
Atemu frowned. What were they trying to tell him? "I don't understand. Why did you stab my heart?"
'Buzdo tou drie, agalon'
Atemu's hand tightened round his sword, eyes scanning the area that looked clear as day to his wary eyes. He back tracked away from the cliff and into the safety of the darkness.
"Who's here?" He asked lowly.
'Sahirbaz' the disembodied voice replied in his mind.
Robed and metal cladded figures emerged from the curtain-like entrance in between the trees. They looked apprehensive, almost anxious as if they waiting for something to jump them.
"Are you sure this is a wise idea?" One of the more timid looking mage asked. "They'll have our heads for this if they know!
"Do you think we wanted this? We're getting paid with a hefty amount. Of course we're doing this!" A brusque looking man replied gruffly.
"But he's done nothing wrong! Why would they do that?"
Atemu tilted his head, hand clenching on his scimitar again as he leaned against the huge tree he was currently shadowed in.
They exchanged more words that soon turned into heated discussion and therefore making Atemu lose track of what they were talking about.
Atemu leaned closer.
A branch snapped and the talking immediately stopped. He froze in place like a deer caught by a hunter, knowing he had just gave himself away. Alshari.
Damn it. He shouldn't have stayed here. He should've just minded his own business and went home.
“Check the area,” one of the knight said.
Atemu cursed silently, heart thundering in his chest as he retreated further into the dark, leveling out his breathing and recalling the shadows who had fallen silent.
“It could just be an animal.” one of the mages reasoned.
“There are no huge animals here. It sounded like a person. Check the area. Now."
A sword being taken out of a scabbard could be heard, footsteps echoing and closing in. Atemu closed his eyes, pressing himself against the tree and drawing a symbol.
A mage appeared, staff lighting the darkness of where they thought the noise was. Thick shadows and trees were the only ones standing, not even a hint of a bird or firefly disturbing the peace.
“No one’s here.” The mage confirmed and went back to the Knights who stared before going back to whatever they were doing.
Atemu appeared out of the shadows again by the nearby hill, body reforming as he stepped forward. Staggering, he found himself leaning against the shady tree, his whole world spinning and gut twisting.
Traveling by shadow. Was just not it.
When his world ceased spinning and his gut didn't feel like it was going to spill out, he stumbled away from the lone hill, keeping away from prying eyes that might see him and taking the route that still had the woodland safety.
He was about to descend back into the wooden housed town when he heard a grunting noise. He perked up, shoulders tensing. What could that be?
Don't go. Don't go. Don't go.
Atemu blinked slow and went over, following the noise that wasn't so far off from the nearby houses. He leaned against a weeping willow and—
“Rose-head?” He whispered, looking the governor up and down who was dressed in a brown cloak. Underneath it was black pants and a long sleeve tunic. What was he doing here?
Rose Head didn’t seem to hear him because he just stuck out his hands, a strained look on his face.
What was that idiot doing? Atemu didn’t understand and showed himself. Even if for a moment, he forgot that he had no business with the other man.
“What are you doing?” Atemu called, raising an eyebrow.
Rose-Head jumped with a yelp. He whirred around, eyes wide—cute—before they narrowed and a hiss left the fair skinned man’s lips. "Are you some kind of stalker? Did you follow me here, lilac-head?”
Atemu raised an eyebrow, snorting at the question. Oh that was hilarious. "Bold of you to assume that I'm a stalker. I just happened to head back to my home and heard you making noises behind the desolate houses. You're really loud."
"What in the bloody hell. Do you have super hearing or something?"
Atemu shrugged and fell silent, leaning against the nearby weeping willow as he watched the governor again.
They continued to stare at each other, not even a hint of another acknowledgment until one of them broke.
The governor coughed and looked away, scratching the back of his neck. "Right, uhh. I was.. I guess I'll admit that I was practicing. And while I was at it, I tried to find you."
Find him? What for? "Why were you looking for me, Rose-head?"
"Geez, straight to the point much?" The governor grumbled. "And my name's Henry you know. Not Rose-head. I was looking for you so I could answer your question about the black dahlias."
Ah. That one.
Atemu hummed, taking notes in his head. "You took that seriously?"
"Well, duh! Of course! Flowers are our language over here, hello? Don't tell me you don't know about that?"
"No," Atemu blinked slow again, tapping his fingers on his sword. "I am not cultured enough to know about their significance. As you can see, I am a commoner."
"...But I thought..." Henry's expression looked lost before he let out a loud sigh. "Okay, okay. Fine. The black dahlias are... A sign of change."
"Yeah," Henry scratched his neck again. "It's a complicated flower that I have a hard time deciphering since it has many variations. Change, elegance, dignity, betrayal..."
Henry seemed to become lost, almost embarrassed. "It can even mean as the willingness to commit and eternally bond with another person."
"I see," Atemu nodded, looking at the willows that surrounded them in its white glow then at Henry again. "I guess that answers my question then."
"That's it? No questions asked or anything? Not even if I—"
Atemu shot out his hands and shook it back and forth. "No need, no need. You've already answered my question. If this is about the incident that happened a few weeks ago then you have no need to say anything. I understand."
"Huh? But I didn't even—" Henry cut himself off, crossing his arms. "How could you react so calm about this? You didn't even go through that horrifying experience."
Atemu let out a low chuckle. Ironic. Interesting. Didn't go through. What a funny story indeed. A bitter pang went through his heart and the shadows within him stirred again, festering, curious.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing, really. Although what you said is... Quite far from the truth. I completely understand your demands and doubts. What you experienced was fairly new, didn't happen before based on your reaction. I'm saying I understand because I've seen how terrifying things like that can be."
And maybe he had overstayed his welcome because the shadows were now festering back into the material world and Atemu felt the little control he had of them slip.
Curious. Intrigued. Him.
Atemu had to go home now. Needed to meditate. He turned his back to the royal. "But that is a story for another time that I, unfortunately, cannot elaborate. Until then, Rose-head."
"Wait! I don't even know your name," Henry called. "I told you that my name is not Rose-head! Isn't it fair that I know who you are too?"
"Mm, my name is not of import," Atemu said and looked over his shoulder at the wide eyed royal who glowed and fit in the atmosphere of the beautiful weeping willows. "However, I'll tell you one of my names. You may call me... Atemu. Atemu Y. Pasha."
"Ate...mu?" Henry repeated before sighing. "That's a weird ass name. And Y. Pasha? Haven't heard of that surname. Weird but okay?"
'Ast to erva nos! Ast to! Ast to! Poskya asti! Poskya asti!'
"People say that too," Atemu began walking away, waving a hand and ignoring the cries of his shadows. "Goodbye, Henry. May you rule with compassion and listen to your people's cries."
"Wait I'm not going to see you again?"
"Perhaps. Only the gods can tell, not I. If they deem us worthy to meet.. then I don't see why not?"
And Atemu melted back into the silent town that was currently being repaired, ignoring the aching and loud cries of the shadows. Shaking his head, he pushed the thought of the governor away so his mind would feel less crowded. Less noisy.
Another time, another place. He had things to do and resolve. Like meditating for example.
And yet his shadows still chanted the same thing.
'Ast to erva nos. Ast to, ast to, ast to! Poskya asti! Poskya asti!'
But from what? From who?
Atemu's situation doesn't seem to lift up. It's even more heavy when a certain royal keeps invading his mind. (All the words shall be revealed by the end of the novel.)