Forward To The Sunrise III: The Blind Man And His Guide
“Gimme yer purse, pretty lady,” laughed the criminal, shooting a hand out for her crossbody bag.
The girl grunted and kicked his shin in an attempt to repel the gang from her. They had surrounded her and pushed her against the wall of a Venéran tavern. They meant nothing but to take her money, though what she had was what she was surviving on.
“Leave me alone!” she screamed as she pushed past the leader of the gang, who howled with pain and held his shin. She clutched the crossbody to her chest and almost broke free of them if it weren’t for the other scoundrel’s impeccable reach. She yelped as he pushed her back against the wall and tugged the bag from her grip.
The girl was a bright and beautiful young Themaikosite lady, who dressed in a casual blue high class garment. Black gladiator sandals were strapped up to her covered knees and a headband of interlocked golden chains adorned her long, black hair. Her eyes, a heavenly deep brown, were wide with fear and anger, and they were accentuated by thick lashes.
“We’ll leave ye be when yeh give us the purse!” growled the leader, fed up with her. He drew closer. “What d’ye have in there?”
“I’d advise you to leave her alone.”
The gang of four whirled around and saw a strong young man, an Údaen, block them off from the mouth of the alleyway. He was dressed simply in a breezy white linen shirt with the long sleeves rolled to his elbows, grey trousers, and leather boots. Because of the heat of the Summer, his black hair was cropped to his head with a few curls spread across his olive face. In one hand he gripped a sturdy walnut staff.
They saw why.
He was blind.
His face was blank and his eyes were far away. They were once blue, but they were now clouded and unfocused.
“He’s helpless,” Murtagh whispered to his leader, Grosvenor. “There’s no honor in picking off of him.”
Grosvenor growled. “He’s arrogant,” he hissed, pointing at him. A smug smile came across the tall blind man’s face. “I don’t like him.”
Eustachi cracked his knuckles. “I’d like to punch his face in. Finish up his scarred face.”
Araz snickered. “I’ll help.”
The girl, now not their problem, carefully tiptoed from behind the gang and stood beside the blind man. She whispered to him and gave him the bag. The man smiled and nodded, though he did not face her.
“Toula, wait for me,” the man said.
The girl sat at the mouth of the alleyway and watched intently.
Grosvenor guffawed. “Girlie, you think that this will be entertaining?” he hollered. “To watch a blind man die?”
She grinned. “It’s entertaining to see the arrogant find their place-” She pointed to the cobblestone. “Face down on the ground.”
Grosvenor shook his head at her and noticed that the blind man hefted up his staff and waited. “If I lose,” the man stated, “then take my bag. If I win, withhold from sacking for a year.”
The gang scoffed. “What a narcissist,” Eustachi huffed.
He didn’t notice until too late that the blind man was upon him. With no time to even yelp, the staff cracked down on his temple and Eustachi fell unconscious. Murtagh smacked his own forehead with frustration.
The stranger, who, to the extent of their knowledge, was still blind, huffed and stood back to full, impressive height. His presence had a strong, leading gravitas to it and his hard expression screamed his disapproval.
“If you want to stay away from me,” he said harshly, “then make as silent as your grave.”
Grosvenor wasn’t about to listen to a blind peasant. He shifted his knife into his hand and slashed out towards the man’s chest. He saw nothing but suddenly felt his own ribs explode with white-hot pain. He could hardly even gasp for breath as he fell on his back. He knew immediately that his ribs were broken.
The man set his walnut staff’s butt end firmly on the ground again. “What did I just say?” he inquired impatiently with a little shake of the head and a frustrated hand motion. “Now, the other one…” He opened up to the alley again and gripped his staff easily.
Murtagh put down his weapons and put his shaking hands in the air. “Who are you?” he asked quietly.
The Údaen smirked and faced him, though his eyes didn’t set on him. He was glad they didn’t; his clouded eyes were frightening.
“Just a peasant,” he said with a shrug. “No, that’s not the question. Go.”
Murtagh scrambled to his feet and wailed as he sprinted aimlessly away.
Nóe slowly shuffled back to Toula, who waited at the mouth of the alley. Since he had started getting used to walking without sight, he had gotten better, though he was still uncertain of the ground ahead of him.
Toula had been with him the entire episode. She had blossomed from a fiery fourteen year old into a levelheaded young woman, now that she had the responsibility of taking care of Nóe.
She took his free arm and guided him towards the town. “Where are we going today?” she asked.
Nóe chewed his lip. “We need to be on the path to Destrea,” he answered. “We’re in Baressi, as north as we can get in Venéra. We’re only five hundred miles southeast of Anglesey.”
Toula sighed. “Nóe, we’ve heard from just about anyone living that Destrea no longer exists as it used to.” Her words didn’t stop him, so she halted him by stepping in front of him and softly pushing him back. “I don’t know what you’re looking for there, but Emperor Crofton won’t let you have it.”
Nóe took her hand in his and sheepishly shook his head. “I want to know if my brother is still there,” he said softly. “And after that, we find the queen. I feel the need to help her, after all that I had done.”
Toula’s brow furrowed. “You have nothing to prove to the queen,” she protested, “we do well together under no authority but our own.”
Nóe smiled and walked past her. “I say we choose the next path.”
Toula let out a sad laugh. “We don’t know what path we’re taking.”
He patted her hand and nodded. “The path becomes a road very, very soon,” he told her.
She reluctantly wrapped her arm in his, knowing that he was right. Ever since she had come to know the man, he was levelheaded and calm. He surprised her all the time. What didn’t surprise her was how wise he sounded as he recited the proverb. While she was his eyes, he was her prudence. Toula had always been passionate and hot headed, and to have a voice of reason was relieving.
Toula smiled and led him. “Then to Destrea we go,” she stated.
Nóe hugged her from the side and they began walking again.
Only a few tens of miles away, in the Elevato Palace, Princess Ambra Luana Biancardi screamed with annoyance.
“Leave me alone!” she shrieked at Achille, who bowed to his young princess, who was known for her tantrums. “I said I don’t want to leave Elevato!”
“B-b-but, Your Majesty,” stammered the heavy man, “it’s mandatory.”
“How come Mother never told me of this Ruby, if she meant to pass it onto me?” she pouted. “I’ve heard this all four years ago, and it was all a false alarm! There was nothing! Why would it be important now?”
“Because Destrea is in need,” explained Achille. “Their Sapphire has fallen into enemy hands, and it is imperative that no more are stolen. We have to lock them and hide them.”
The girl took her tiara from her blonde head and expected Achille to take it from her to take the journey. When he pulled his hands away from her, she rolled her blue eyes. “Honestly, it’s not cursed!” she huffed.
“It may not be cursed,” blubbered Achille, “but I will never be able to touch it.”
Ambra shifted her gaze to her handmaiden, a tall, middle-aged Údaen slave.
Even if Destrea’s nation was able to emancipate all their slaves, Venéra was wealthy because of their slave-trading business.
This certain woman was taken from Nahrin, now twelve years ago, where it was said that the strongest Údaens were born. She was poised and regal, despite her meaningless rank, and she was humbled by everything she did. No matter her chore, someone had to punish her. The woman, whose Venéran slave name was Celeste, kept her mouth shut and refused to speak unless she was ordered to. Her violet eyes were cast to the floor and her black hair was messily pinned up.
“Do you believe in all of these myths, Celeste?” Ambra asked, more as a quiz. She wished the slave to feel too stupid to say that she believed them, and she wanted her to feel guilty lying to the princess in saying that she didn’t.
Celeste refused to look up, but she slowly nodded. “I believe them in my heart and soul, as I’ve seen the splendor and beauty of all four Eyes together. As relics of Princess Mahin Darya, they are found to be precious signs of a mother’s love in Úda. On their own they are harmless to the Keepers, but when they are paired with the book of Mahin Darya’s son’s life, the Book of Alqudama, they, together, display to the world the highest power.” She silently filed from the room.
“Celeste!” Ambra hissed.
Reluctantly, the woman returned, eyes cast to the floor.
“And why do you believe such… such… gobbledegook?” The princess indignantly placed her crown, inlaid with a single ruby, back on her head.
Celeste bowed, though she showed no true remorse for her statement. “It is my belief, Your Majesty, for no reason other than I know it’s true.”
With that, she walked away.