the short story project


Alex Khatskevich

The shores of consciousness 

The dim light went from the candle on the wooden table. That table was at the far corner in the inn, which wasn’t so famous among neighbours. It wasn’t very crowded here and if you wanted to choose any of the rooms here you could do that. Nevertheless, three of the twelve big tables were occupied by small groups of people. Near the threshold was a company of three people, if a stranger would come into the inn and throw a glance to his left, he could decide that the family was sitting at that table – a grown man, same-aged woman and a girl. But it was only from the first look (a stranger would turn his head and went ahead, who cared about lodgers?), in fact, those people, as they still were a family: a mother, she was a lilliputian and twins, brother and sister. Nobody would believe in that, but it was true, and their mother was happy that her children were of normal height. They were eating, but not a lot, there were a bowl with tomato and green leaves, two plates with cheese and toasted bread, and they all drunk a very strange beverage, which looked like water, but the twin-brother and his sister always wrinkled when they sipped their cups. The innkeeper stood behind the barstage and was polishing glasses, nothing surprising was in his behaviour. He was watching on every rare guest, and time-to-time yelled at his waitress. “Susan, more beer for those venerable men! And hurry up! Their cups are almost empty!” And poor Susan took her hem, run as fast so her hills almost beat a spark. The company, which was drinking as true courageous and brave soldiers, was sitting at the third table from the barstage. They were true soldiers, not all of them, but at least, eight men from their company had their own insignia, it was two black and firered burnt wings on their chest in a yellow rhombus. The other three were their friends, or who they were being exactly, only soldiers knew. Nevertheless, they all were sitting together, laughing and eating (the table was bursting with food), and drinking; they were drinking so much, that with every new round the smile on innkeepers’ lips grew wider and wider, and now it reached his ears, and if innkeeper was lop-eared, probably, the smile went ahead and stretched his ears more. But there was one more table. The light was not enough to make the faces visible, but the outlines of the person could still be seen. Nobody heard their conversation and it was not necessary to whisper, at least, the noise of dozen throats muffled any sound in that room, except of a harsh voice of innkeeper, when Susan dropped something again because her hands were trembling as hands of an old alcoholic, but she drunk no drop of wine or anything else. The family was sitting motionless and it seemed for a stranger that if they were some zombie family. So, it wasn’t necessary to bring voices to the whisper. One man wore a mantle, the edge of the mantle was covered by dirt and was slightly torned. It wasn’t seen but on his foots he put on simple boots for long travels. Also, he put a hood upon his head and tried not to move so that candle didn’t light up his face. But in the shadow of the hood, it was possible to see a long straight nose, and bushy dark eyebrows, his eyes were invisible, but the person could feel its look. His hands were lying on the table and they were hands of a man of age, neither too old nor young. Those hands with long handsome fingers had never known a hard job and that man took the cup with wine as he always knew how to do that from the very birth. The other man, who was sitting right opposite to the man in the hood, was different. He was sitting in the corner and the dim light didn’t reach his face; his long dark hair fell cascadelly on his straight and potent shoulders. By same dark color as his hair was his face covered by bristle. Hard eyebrows overhung his dark eyes; nevertheless, the other man could see more light in them than it was in the sunniest day. It was like a cat eye, which gave light in the dark. That man looked like a traveller too, but instead of mantle he wore skin pants, they were clinging his legs; the shirt was made from skin too and was tight to his body, and there was a small hood, which he had put off before. His legs were in nice comfortable boots, they were covered by dirt, same as his opponent`s. And all his suite seemed to be as one, like overall, but more for safe travel, when the stranger didn’t want to be discovered. They were sitting here not a lot of time, but they were waiting for someone and with every new tremble of the tiny fire of the candle, the nerve grew inside of their stomach, compelled them to throw quick looks on the door and the man in the hood shook his leg. “Do you think he is coming?” asked the man in the hood. “I’m not sure, Ayr,” he leaned to the back of the stool. “At our last meeting, he seemed…well, he didn’t like our idea.” “But, we have no choice!” almost screamed Ayr, then he realized that one of the twins from the near table eyed him for a moment, Ayr turned to whisper, “Ananke vanished! What do we have to do, my brother? You know what it means, Zaid.” “Nevertheless, we still have time. Unless…” Ayr made a deep breath, “unless Three Moiras were still on their thrones.” “Yes, I agree with you, unless, they are in their places, we have time,” Zaid again looked at the door. The brave company still didn’t pay attention to them and chased poor Susan back and forth, the innkeeper just smiled, he already counted income for today’s busy day. “He has to come in a moment,” Zaid said; Ayr would like to believe, but he felt nervous notes in Zaid’s voice, despite total confident and brutal look of his brother. “Did he say, exactly? You know it will be more difficult for our plan if he refuses.” “He said he would think. I don’t blame him, it’s a serious interference in entire worlds,” Zaid made a sip from his cup and wiped his mouth with his hand. “I know that Ananke left her post, and now everything turns upside down.” “Ah! What a curse fell upon our heads! Chaos never was so close to his plan, and now somehow he could do that. But he just stole it, didn’t he? So, we have time and we don’t have it enough, that to prevent the destruction of worlds.” “That’s why, Ayr, we have the only one way, same way as we used at the beginning – we have to find the right man with strong enough power that to create a new Lyre, more powerful.” “Yes, my brother! Yes, it’s our duty, I know! Oh, what a curse, what a curse brought to us. I already feel that – vibrations changed. The Star Sky and Moon are fluctuating, they sound out of tune, my brother! I feel it. Oh, where is your man?” Ziad just made one more sip and eyed the door, which stayed motionless. For now, it seemed that everything was alright, except that the Architect still didn’t come. But suddenly, the door creaked and a silhouette appeared on the threshold. “I’ve told you, he had to come,” smiled Zaid. The tall man overstepped the threshold. The brave company looked at him and returned to their feast immediately when Susan dropped a new round of pints. The family finished their breakfast and twins already stood up. They took their dwarf-mom by hands and carried her, like a child, mom’s legs were in the air and she was between her children. It was a ridiculous thing, but it happened here and nobody could deny it, because eyes never lied. They went upstairs and disappeared from the view. The innkeeper, glad enough of that day and excited by the new guest, waved his head to Susan in the direction of the dirty table that she should clean the table for a new guest. But the tall man just waved his hand in a black glove that he didn’t need it. He turned his gaze to the other side, where the only one tiny light from the candle still was playing. Two men turned to that strange man, they viewed him from head to toe. The man put off his hat with feather and smoothed his french moustache. He wore a white shirt with a waistband, lush long sleeves and lace cuffs, bandaged with golden ribbons. Underneath of the shirt, he put a purple cravat. Lush broad pants were tied over the knees, under them he wore white silk stockings with lace garters and purple rhingrave. The small cloak was thrown over his left shoulder; a small sharp court sword lifted the edge of the cloak a little bit. On his feet he wore french court shoes. He stared at two men, which still were looking at him and went with a hard move toward them. He sat and put his hat on the table. Then he waved to Susan as she was his soldier and he was her commander. Poor Susan ran to him immediately, she feared what if her owner saw it, that guest was waving his hand while she was doing other stuff but not serving first, what was her a direct duty. The man whispered something to her ear, and she ran away as fast as her short legs let her. She came back at the same very time when she left the man. She brought him a glass of wine. The man waved his hand and she hurried to leave. The man stared at the glass very attentively, looking at every grain of sand on it. Then he made a very careful sip, washed his mouth, like rinsed out a mouth, he swallowed the wine and made one more sip, satisfied he put the glass on the table and smiled. The innkeeper smiled too. All those actions two men just watched and when he was done, first spoke Ayr. “Finally, you came. I wonder…I mean, I hope that The Great Architect comes to help us fix our little problem,” said Ayr, in his voice was tiny notes of excuses. “I wonder too,” said The Great Architect with a soft and calm voice, full of confidence and courage, “why The Brethren of Purity needs me, I know that your business doesn’t let you come to such faraway lands?” “Yes, you’re right, but now, we have trouble and we need your help,” said Zaid. “Please.” “Well, your fellowship have to be informed well that there is no way of asking me about my help.” “But you are here,” said Zaid. “Yes! Please, The Great Architect, listen to us! It’s not only about our failure, but about a destruction of your worlds.” “Nobody!” The Great Architect screamed, and the brave company turned to them and silenced, but The Great Architect just waved his hand and the strangers turned to their bawdy conversation. He continued quieter, “There is a law! You can’t interfere in each other’s business, and most of all you can’t interfere in worlds’ fate!” “But Ananke left her post! The Lyre is possibly destroyed, vibrations changed! Planets changed their tones, there is no more music in the system! It means we don’t have enough time! We ask you to help. Nobody but you could create an unbelievable essence, humans. We have to find, who becomes the next one, who can create a new Lyre, more powerful. You know that, it was said and it was written in the Book of Fate. The Writer, he connects with Time and Death, they don’t care, but Chaos with a power of Lyre, can destroy them, and then he wins.” Ayr dropped his voice. His hood fell on his shoulders, but he didn’t notice that, too excited of his speech. Zaid just was drinking and watching The Great Architect. The Great Architect was thinking. He turned deep into his mind, nobody could break the law, but…Chaos. “I know. I already know. Before I came. I know everything, I spoke with Ananke, I told her to stay on her post, I could figure out everything by myself, but she didn’t listen to me. She was gone at the same moment when I tried to bind her. It’s all my fault, everyone from us followed the law and believed that we were protected, but Chaos never thought in that way, nobody could read his mind, except The Writer, who was gone to unknown places at once after he wrote The Book of Fate.” The Great Architect smiled. “He left us the set of rules, without explanations. I already know, brothers, what happened. I fight with myself, but I cannot help you, System has to save itself.” “But they even don’t know!” almost yelled Ayr, but Zaid hushed on him and Ayr put a finger to his mouth. “Yes, I can’t help you. It’s a law. I swore to follow it. In case if I break it, the capital punishment waits for me. But I made a backup plan,” The Great Architect smiled. “Brothers, I have to say sorry for my first appearance. And never ask me for help…but my children. Together nephilims have enough power that to create what you need that you can find the right person for your task.” “And…where we can find them?” asked Ayr. “I know where they are hiding,” said Zaid, “I met them once.” The Great Architect smiled. “Remember, we are bound with the law, Chaos is not. But we have anything else as an Ace in a sleeve. I wish you a good luck.” The Great Architect drunk the red wine to the very bottom, put his hat with the feather on his head and, bowing, he left the inn. The innkeeper sighed and barked at Susan. She hurried to clean the table with a brave company. Two men, Ayr and Zaid, looked at each other, they didn’t know how to react on The Great Architect’s appearance. But there was a glimmer of hope.                                


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