Chapter 11: The Temple Guardian

The first sight out of the window suggests it will be hot mid-summer weather, completely cloudless, windless. And a weekend, Eysin was expecting company. Imogen had called and wanted to meet her – and take the Titan parts from her that she had gotten from Ceremony, after the explosion.

“I don’t have them. They’re either at the Temple or Seals took them somewhere else.”

“I’ll check with Seals.”

“She’s coming here anyway, just as her to bring along the parts.

“Good, there was another thing I was going to discuss with you anyway, Eysin.”

The clothes on her couch are no good. She packs them up and prepares them for the wash house. She’s got a few hours until they arrive. It gets a little stressful when there’s nothing to wear, so, anxiously, she opens up another box which contained some of her older clothes, and clothes she had put aside for the warmer weather.

Open the box, the first thing she picks up in it is a big old jacket. Belonged to Arkion. On a closer whiff, smelled like his herbs, too. Those damn teas!
She had somehow managed to learn to associate these teas with the terror that had occurred at the Temple. They had gotten invaded by a more recent group that had joined EESO, they had been after the orb, and they had been connected to the explosions of the Titans, but who paid them or why they were doing this at all remained a huge mystery.
While Eysin had passed out, Imogen and Seals were unleashing hell in the Terratorium. As soon as Imogen had passed Eysin and left her to Seals’ hands, she had blown the whole terrain to bits and in the floaty dust, all the intruders were left open.

The Titan did incredible leaps – it could jump 10 meters across and above, it was incredibly quick and terrifying. Imogen put extra effort into making it extra soundy – it made hideous sounds of metal creaking, screeches and bangs – just to try to terrify the enemy. With a flash it would appear near one of the intruders and effortlessly pierce through the leg – not even the suit could stop that – slow and strong enough – even the zerk had its limits.
One by one, and not for too long, Imogen took down more than half of those lost in the ‘torium.

Seals pulled back anyone who tried to follow Eysin, she whipped and turned the thing into a leash, pulling the intruders back through their necks, shooting small darts with a slight yellow glow, putting them back to sleep.

Meanwhile, up in the garage – 3 more friends of Imogen’s were waiting, and they didn’t notice the fight going on in the Orb room before Eysin and her assailant had been underwater for a whole few minutes.

They hadn’t paid any attention to it as the assailant had been one of Imogen’s – and he had assumed Eysin was one of the enemies.

But when they did notice the two bodies in the water, they rushed over and pulled them out. Apart from her neck swelling up and growing massive bruises, Cassius needed to be reanimated for a bit.

He survived.

The partial trance-like state, quick assumptions – Eysin didn’t feel great about almost having killed someone who could be a good friend. And Cassius wasn’t all so happy with that situation, either. He had been terrified, “but never let me use that as an excuse.”

“Friendly fire happens, it’s quite normal” Imogen had intercepted later, “you both should be happy this didn’t end any worse for either of you. You both are excused from the cleanup – get back to the mansion, we’ll take care of things here.”

“How did I not recognize you?”

“Maybe you got so used to seeing me painted red?”

No hard feelings from either side.

Eysin found her large jacket and Seals escorted them back to the mansion. She helped Eysin settle in somewhere. A healer was there – one she had seen before, repeatedly – Asya – and she helped heal her throat with the pink marbles and the red light.

Seals returned to the Temple and they had to clean up their mess. The Terratorium was reset, and the wounded intruders were imprisoned into small separate boxes right there. Imogen had pressed them for quite a while, but what she did or didn’t find out had not been much of interest to Eysin.

She had been lying on that bed, feeling the warmth of red light, dreaming of returning to Reval. She didn’t know it, but Asya soon commented, “the more you talk the slower you will heal.”

Eysin shut up for a while, and Asya felt the need to comment on her ramblings.
“A city is a terrible machine, and you will be trapped inside, under its control – whether you believe it or not. You go there, you support every piece of shit that happens there. But here – you take care of the land, you take care of people who take care of the land – and the land will make sure you’ll have everything you need, too.”

“Ack, bollocks! This place got me nearly killed! Twice now!”

“Nearly!” Asya pinched her. “Do you think you would have survived with such situations in Reval? Who would have come for you?”

“I wouldn’t be in such situations in Reval,” Eysin whispers – more pleasant to the irritated throat.

“I got it as good as we can, the rest will have to heal the natural way, or I could mess up your voice, sorry.”

Eysin lifted a thumb for her. Asya left her and she curled up inside the large jacket, fell asleep to the smell of teas and herbs, and something of Arkion.

* * *

Eysin sits in her cool kitchen, waiting for company. Soon, there is a knock on the door and she goes to get it.

When she opens the door, first she has trouble recognizing the woman. That’s the first time she sees Imogen wearing makeup and casual clothes. Her hair is loose and wavy, she looks very nice. “Hello, Eysin, long time.”

She invites her in and doesn’t know for a moment whether to offer her a seat or something else. Imogen is taking off her cute heeled shoes and looks around the dim room, “it’s so nice and cool here. But the weather is lovely, don’t you want to go do this outside?”

“Seals is still headed this way, we shouldn’t leave without her. Besides, I was hoping to do this inside, this heat is a little too much for me.”

“I passed a nice tea-house on my way here. We could go there, instead,” Imogen says. “We can leave her a note and she’ll come there, too.”

Eysin and Imogen walk through a well-kept park and reach a part of a city where there are cute wooden houses, many old men sitting around, children and dogs running around a fountain. They walk into one of the small buildings and take a seat. Indeed, it is nice and cool there, too. They order some tea and get used to the surroundings – and each other.

“You look well,” Imogen says. Eysin’s wearing a light summer dress – something she’d never seen before. “Have you healed well?”

“I’m good as ever. I must say – you look incredible, as well.” They sit in silence for a bit until Eysin asks, “Seals will bring the titan parts for you. I’ve not come in touch with them ever since the lockdown.”

“But did you take a look? Can you access memory, at all?”

“I learned to read memory, sure. And I did take a look, but there is an unexpected problem. While their initial framework is global – sort of like DNA, present in every piece, unchanged – unless it has suffered some topical injuries – the temporal memory doesn’t appear to work that way. I think – while it’s still all in one piece, it has access to the whole surface, but as we had just a shard, I could only access the memory of that particular area. That piece of surface I picked – disappointingly enough for both of the broken titans – was a part of the shell that faced the wall.”

“Which means you can see nothing…”

“So, even if you give these to Agnes, I doubt she’ll find anything. Do you have any way to access any of the other parts of the titan?”

“I’m afraid not.” Some fucker had sold the pieces, and Imogen had no say in it. These Titans didn’t belong to her. “They are all gone, off the island – and I have no way to track them down. The pieces Seals is bringing over – are the only things we can work on.”

“Have you worked out the suspects?”

“Well, we have eliminated around a thousand possibilities. The people who intruded the temple were all in some way friends of Daegan… They were a bunch of people who came here 3 years ago, from Reval. They kept together and Daegan was the only one of us oldies who mingled with them.”

“Denea was one of them?”

“Well, Asya has an alibi for her, and she’s been behaving very nicely. But I haven’t eliminated her from the list of suspects just yet. There was another thing I wanted to talk to you about – the umbrellas…”

“Yeah, what about them…”

“It is a fine invention. Could you make us some more?” Imogen knew she was asking too much. Her eyes were big, like begging. She thought the answer was going to be no.

“I can teach you how to make them. I can share the blueprint.” She takes a new shiny ring from her arm and places it on the table. “I thought you’d want that, so I prepared this for you.”

Imogen takes it and adds it to her rings collection. “You’re good with these. It’s a shame you didn’t want to hang around. Would be a lot easier guarding the temple. But I understand, you needed to… Leave. I hope you’ll recover and come back.”

Eysin shrugs. “I’ve recovered, but I’m not done here yet.”

Imogen places fingers around another ring on her arm, seems to think about it, then takes it off and places it on the table, “I am already asking too much from you, but a little favour. Can you tell me what this is?”

Eysin picks it up, feels it in her fingers, even without bringing up the Kaestus or a visor, she looks at it like she can read it directly. “It’s a sword.”

“Of course,” Imogen smiles, “what else could it be. It belonged to Arthur.”

“Would you like to start using it? I could reset it for you, scrape his encryption…”

“Nah, I don’t care for swords… Besides, it’s the only piece of him that I’ve got left of him.”

Eysin hands it back to her.

Seals shows up, they order more tea and sit for a while longer. She looks nice and summery, too, she has a nice tan and a light shirt. She’s not wearing anything purple. But she doesn’t look very happy, she looks a little nervous, continuously looking at the windows and the door, as if she’s expecting the wrong person is about to step in.

“Half vacation is over,” Seals doesn’t know what to talk about, “I thought… If I come here at all, I hoped to go to the beach, too. Maybe, in the evening, have some cool drinks, I think they have a fun bus set up there, mojitos and all that.”

“I’m game,” Eysin loves the idea.

“I’m afraid I have to go meet the big lord man…”

“Oh, is that why you’re dressed so fancy?” Seals asks, a little surprised, and a little disappointed, too. She thought Imogen could be fun.

“Yeah, we got this land dispute thing going on. I’m telling you this girls – if you plan to marry – just take the damn name.” Imogen had a rather upset look for a second.

She had inherited some of Arthur’s properties, but because she had not, when marrying him, taken his last name, there were some problems. By some parties – who are relatives to the house, also carrying the same family name, do not consider her as a proper inheriter. She and Arthur didn’t get any children, so, the Brotherhood was quick to claim the properties. But she fought. At least she tried.

Seals took a package from her back and placed it on the table. The shards of the titans were wrapped in a cloth and tied together with a string. Imogen takes them, weighs them and puts them in her bag. “Thank you. Did you also try reading them?”

“I’m not so good at memory… Besides, it was all very fuzzy. It’s like Eysin said – the temporal is all topical – and when you disconnect it, it will no longer have access to other information. Sucks, really.”

“Very well. How’s the old man keeping up?” Imogen asks from Seals.

“He is enjoying his summer. Very occupied with his grapes and olives.”

“Ah, the big harvest year.” Once every four years. The winter grapes and winter olives just took a while – and heavy maintenance. But they were a famous brand.

Imogen finishes her tea and strokes looks as if she’s already planning to leave, “I am sorry that I have to cut this meeting so short. We actually would have other matters to discuss, but I have to go fight for the land a bit. Please let me know if any of you plans to visit the Temple, sometime, okay? I will schedule another meeting with you two when my disputes clear up a little.”

They all stand, give hugs to each other, she leaves, and Eysin and Seals sit down again, this time to the opposite sides of the table. Seals doesn’t want to see the door and the windows anymore. And when she looks at Eysin, she smiles now.

“Mrs Ravana,” Seals gasps, “you’ve got mail!” She takes something from the purse – an envelope! And slides it to the middle of the table. To: Eysin Ravana, sent on the Temple address.

“Mail?” Eysin hesitates to take it, “who’d send me a mail?” She puts her hand on it and shifts it closer to herself. Feels like there’s a lot of paper inside, a bulky letter. “I wonder if it’s some official document shit or some spam? Do you get that, here?”

“The sender is on the opposite side, I think it’s an actual letter,” Seals smiles.

“Seems like quite a volume, though, I hope you keep it for later and now pay attention to your beloved visitor!”

“You wanted to hit the beach?”

“We’ll do that when the sky is dimmer, I can’t stand roasting under the sun for another minute. But I would prefer it if we went… Either to the park or your place.” She had reasons to not want to stay at the tea house.

* * *

Seals made that day a phenomenal summer day, they had fun just walking around, enjoying various drinks and ice creams, doughnuts and soup. And later in the evening, at the beach, at the company of strangers, cracking jokes, they enjoyed some cool wine and icy mojitos. They went completely overboard with the drinks, even made it to some small kind of a nightclub with loud electronic dancing music. More cocktails and they stuck to the ones that tasted like watermelon, and kept dancing with each other until 4 and then for the 2 next hours walked their way back to Eysin’s place.

They felt pretty ill in the morning, but that wasn’t a thing that a bit of ice cream couldn’t help. They went out, ate some breakfast together, Seals felt straight enough again and said it was about time she started driving back home.

“It was really good to see you,” Seals says when parting ways at the parking lot.

“I hope we do this again, at least a couple of times this summer. Or maybe we should go on a hike somewhere… I haven’t gone canoeing in years! Would you like something like that?”

“Sure, whenever you want to go, I can make time for it.”

They hug, she drives off, goodbye. Eysin walks back to her small home. Dark and cool, and silent. That had been more socializing in the past 24 hours than she had been used to.

She picks up her bag – one that she had never used before this day, and thinks to sort the stuff – she had brought along makeup and whatever emergency things she thought she could use. Eysin had learned from her early Reval days that all sorts of mini emergencies come up when going out like that – but now she wanted to put all these things back in their proper places – and she knew there was going to be things for the trash bin, as well.

She turns the contents of her bag on her bed, and on it also lands the one things she had forgotten about, but had caused her much excitement when she had received it. The letter. She forgot about the sorting she had planned to do, picked up the letter and looked at the other side of the envelope.

From: Arrichion Atelbaer.

“Who the fuck is that?” She scratches her head and her eyebrows crook. She recognized the last name – the biggest name in the region. Theogenes Atelbaer, Arthur Atelbaer, Bartel Atelbaer, Atlas Atelbaer. But the first name was a very strange one, she’d never seen it before but made her all the more curious.

She hoped very much that this wasn’t just some bureaucratic thing typed down, some Eesian contract or some documents from RESO. She walked towards her couch to get comfy in it, she opens the envelope a little impatiently, nearly tearing the letters apart, and sees – there are a few torn pages, possibly from an old small notebook – everything is handwritten, with a blue pen.

 

Hi, Eysin.

I heard of the events that went down at the temple, and glad to hear how well you had handled it. It was quite the topic here in the camp for a while, you girls are now seen as some kinds of heroes among us!

I have also received word from Atlas, he thanked me for having sent you his way, said he had been quite hungry for new students, and you had been sufficiently eager to learn from him. He did not comment on your progress, but it seems like at least you have the right attitude – he’d never take you on otherwise 🙂

I hope you like Ceremony and the campsite, I recall these houses were quite nice during the summer. On hotter days, they keep quite cool. I went there to heal quite a few times myself.

And have you seen Atlas’ dogs yet? They have a big ranch, kennel masters and all that. There’s an incredibly big dog, Bubby – he’s taller than you, but when Atlas cares to introduce you, you won’t find a gentler and a friendlier dog! You should go see if you haven’t already. He’s getting old, also, so, do it while you still can!

For us over here, it has been a rather challenging few months. For me, personally, it got rougher after the first month. When the jacket no longer had your scent on it 🙁

There hasn’t been anything nicer to put me to sleep and dream good dreams.

It looks like it will be another few months before I can return. We are making quite interesting progress here on the site, but that’s not something I can discuss over the mail. Maybe I’ll tell you all about it when I return. And there are a lot of other things we could talk about, still. I am looking forwards to it!

Occasionally, I think back at our conversation in the forest. On that whole chain of events on that night, and I keep finding new angles to process it through. A lot happened – around Ceremony, in the Temple, and later. Whenever I’m idle, that’s where my mind goes back to. It was a very shit night, but it was also very enjoyable.

And my wish is to have more experiences like that – why not with you?

The idea of returning, meeting you again – it keeps me going here. When I look around, I have noticed – those who do not have that something to return to, something to look forwards to – they tend to fall ill, their energy is all messed up.

They become a little heavy and unreliable. I think, if it wasn’t for you, I could be the same way 🙁

The conditions here are pretty rough. We have had several occasions where lives were on the line – threats by the insanely cold weather (it is way better, at the moment, but nothing like the summer you’re possibly going to have). Threats by our competitors. And sadly also some internal tensions. We have a bunch of fights here over scraps of food. We ran out of provisions 2 months ago and not everyone is really good at hunting.

It’s pretty phenomenal when we catch a moose or something! But that’s as much as I can say about the expedition. I’m confident I’ll come back in one piece 🙂
I want to meet you again. I remember I owe you a story, and it looks like I also owe you for my current good health and energy! The story about Reval and the Eco

Terrorists! It’s a story I‘ve been itching to tell for a long while!

And I do believe it is YOU, and the good news from you, that has helped me not succumb to the overall despair here in the camp.

See you soon,
Arkion.

PS. I just thought of something nice: kisses are like a mouthful of moist spaghetti.

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