Serge dismounted and approached the Veil. Elias watched the wall of smoke light up as he touched its surface. Without a word, the Veil tore open under his hand, startling Elias.
Elias looked at the other side; the trees, hazed sunlight and strong winds were reflected there. Torrents of wind combed through the conifers on both sides and pulled at their clothes. Serge whistled low and both mounts trotted through the hole. Elias passed through the Veil, it was a hand breadth thick and he was on the otherside.
The Veil closed up behind them once Serge was two strides away. He mounted Darach and they continued their trek. Elias wondered how he had opened it, making note to find this out in case he ever needed through.
Elias checked his range of motion, knowing if he let himself sit still too long he would grow stiff again, and stiff was not what he ever wanted to be. He stretched the best he could atop Terra trying to stay prepared for any unforseen action.
“You never explained the Veil,” Elias said rolling his shoulders in circles.
“That’s right,” he took a breath gathering his thoughts. “The Sentinels were supposed to protect Fray, instead they fragmented it with the Veil. As to why they did this, we’re not surel; they haven’t exactly been open to communication since it happened. It happened ten years ago after the Shadow War. The Veil cut off Goshen, the Caligas homeland first, then out of panic or madness they erected them sporadically over all the Fray. Thus, shattering the land creating Shards,” Elias listened and watched as he noticed the trees changing from conifers to broadleaf.
Elias wondered where he was when the Veil went up. He didn’t know where Goshen was, or if he had fled before it happened. The thought of fleeing anything put a thorn in his side.
“Why hasn’t anyone stopped them?”
“Almost no one knows how to get through the Veil, and they cut themselves off from direct contact.”
Serge redirected the conversation, “We haven’t crossed the border out of Hoham and into Prakash yet, so technically this is still Hoham. Since Prakash is the Capitol on this side of the Veil, no one argues that it’s still Hoham. Most have actually left their homes and settled in Prakash,” Serge smirked, “This has probably been the most successful Shard since the Schism, thanks to Lord Preavus’ leadership.”
The conversation stopped there. They continued riding in silence. Instead of resting, Elias used the time to collect his thoughts and scrutinize his surroundings. He made no effort to let his guard down, he didn’t know where it came from but there was always an acute awareness in him that he couldn’t ignore.
When they came to crossroads he made sure to remember which way they traveled, and any identifiers along the way. It didn’t strike him as odd how much attention to detail he took. Everything seemed valuable, wether it was because he had so little memory to fill his thoughts, or a slight paranoia was undecided. A change in vegetation, a boulder along the side of the road. Elias had taken the time to memorize Terra and Darach’s markings he was confident he could spot them inside a flock.
Of all the things occupying his mind, the subtlest of these was an uneasiness resting in the bottom of his stomach. Its constant weight annoyed him and he pushed it out of his thoughts with a deep breath. He was eager to argue the thought that Serge had offered no reason for him to be suspicious. Though he had offered little explanation as to his own intentions, so far he showed no hostility, if not a slight annoyance to Elias.
Elias and Serge had been slowly traveling up until it was clear they had reached a higher elevation. Elias looked back over the tops of trees, and in the distance through the Miasma the flickering Veil reached into the sky.
The wind whipped harder at every loose thing on them. The fowl was less steady on their feet, they were forced to lean against the wind every time it changed direction, which was often. Elias surprised himself again. He wrapped and folded his crimson cloak around until it sat solid around his neck. The biting cold was better than the feeling he may be pulled of his mount at any moment by the wind in his cloak.
They travelled around a peak now reaching the other side of the mountain pass and Elias watched a new horizon come into view. Serge slowed so Elias could take it all in.
The mountain pass dipped down and back until it reached a lush valley. The valley was shaped like a crescent, it rose up into a plateau that reached back into the horizon. A single massive waterfall poured out of the center of an enormous city that rose off the plateau in a brilliant display of colors and shapes. The bright red and yellow architecture peaked through green vegetation. It looked like the city sprung up inside a utopian garden.
Elias was taken aback for a moment. The contrast between the harsh world he had seen thus far and this flourishing kingdom was stark. The Miasma even seemed thinned out over the capitol.
Serge looked back at Elias, pleased at his reaction, “Welcome to Prakash.”
The two travelled down the cliffs and into the valley towards the Capitol. They were enveloped at the bottom in fertile greens, bright colorful flowers, fruitful trees and the occasional pool where the river gathered. Elias noticed when there was a particularly beautiful display Serge would look at him sideways to see his reaction.
Though it was beautiful, Elias remained mostly reserved about his feelings. At the forefront of his mind were the simple facts: he still didn’t remember anything, he knew nothing about Serge, Prakash, or Lord Preavus other than what he was told, and he didn’t know how he ended up on that beach. He wasn’t willing to let his guard down yet.
Elias heard children’s voices. As they weaved through the forested canopy Elias spotted a few small children chasing each other through the trees. Some were pale, others with dark skin like his and Serge’s. Caligas.
A child darted in front of them when they passed another natural pool and stopped. The little boy looked at Elias with his mouth ajar. He had a blue streak from his hair line to the point of his nose. It looked like chalk to Elias.
“You have pretty eyes,” the little boy said with a slight awe in his voice.
Elias furrowed his brow, such a stark contrast he thought. He was surprised and slightly uncomfortable by the boy’s outburst. Serge dismissed the child and he stepped aside watching Elias as they passed.
“You’ll find the people here are friendlier towards Caligas, and in general,” Serge said as they continued. “Not that it sounds like you have too much to compare it to. Trust me when I say if you pass through the Veil again you are sure to not find the kind of hospitality you will here.”
Elias said nothing. He started seeing more and more people as they traveled some of the main trails and roads near the Capitol. They all seemed to share the same colorful streak down their foreheads and noses. They carried baskets and packs, usually pulling at least a hand free to wave at the travelers.
He could hear something in the distance, his thoughts were taken back to the ridge overlooking Prakash. He recalled the massive waterfall pouring through the center of the glistening city. They must be getting close he concluded.
The pedestrians increased in number and it was clear they were farmers. They climbed into trees sending their crops down into large woven baskets, then hoisted them towards the Capitol. Serge and Elias kept to themselves, neither seemed to share the same outspoken friendliness the others did. Only a few days ago, Elias had faced off with some unseen horrors, and been attacked or pursued by most anyone he met.
They passed through the trees into a large clearing. It was filled with Prakash citizens who bustled about with their goods. Several merchants had set up shops, while others herded farmers to drop their baskets on flats that were hoisted two hundred feet into the air to the city overhead. Elias watched as streams of people traveled up and down massive ramps and stairs to and from Prakash.
“Looks like we have quite a climb ahead of us,” Elias remarked.
“There’s another way for officials like myself. Follow me.”
Official, Elias thought he neglected to mention any rank or status to him.He followed Serge around the bustling groups to the right. They traveled away from the main road until the roar of the waterfall was pounding Elias. They rounded the final corner and Elias saw the massive lake he spotted from the ridge. Its clear waters stretched hundreds of feet in front of them, and hundreds more feet deep. Had the light not been fading, he would’ve been able to see the bottom of the lake.
“Skuskyr,” Serge yelled over the barrage of sound. “It means clear shadow,” Elias saw him gesture towards the lake.