Chapter Eight: Reluctant

Greyed, murky clouds surged over one another, billowing in great rolling waves. The clouds were so thick they formed a wrapping blanket over Terron’s surface, blotting out the sky from those below. The waves of the greyed, murky clouds were so great they surely stretched greater than farms, rolling over one another to consume what had been there, and then make anew, to become a stronger coalesced mass of cloud. They carried far, vaster than the Great Divides gouging into the Rivenlands' surface and mantle, piercing into the wounds of the earth and exposing them to fester silently and unwatched. Their depth was like the reverse of a cliff-face, their contour like the mold of a cliff as well, with all its jagged ridges and chipped lines. Better to bury them in dirt and sand, digging with thousands of people and years of sweating, grueling labor, than let them be open to the world. It was the only way they could survive.

It was complacent to leave them alone, to turn away from them and act as if they were not there. They were a problem, and yet no one did anything about them. Complacency was human kind’s bane a sardonic voice said into Trem’s ears. It did not matter if it was a conscious decision. Complacency would only be the result of actions, or inaction, whether or not it was intended. Trem knew better than to ignore the Great Divides now, but he was just one boy, how could he ever erase them from the world, whether burying them with the scraped off dirt and sand from the surface, or sewing them shut, to remain closed as long as they possibly could be?

This region of surging and billowing clouds was as expansive as the world was to Trem, and even then, it was of a spreading distance more than he had ever seen from the highest height he had ever been. Above this wrapping expanse of clouds was the breadth of the sky, smeared with the black of nothing that was the void beyond Terron, with no white and blue pinpricks of glowing stars nor the looming pale moon, like Trem was utterly and truly alone within these surging clouds with that sardonic voice.

Trem was pulled on the overwhelming currents of the surging clouds, carried with the billowing waves that overcame each other an incalculable amount of times, each that overtook the other pulled Trem with them in the new, tidal direction. Trem shut his eyes, becoming lost in the tossing currents of the murky and greyed clouds; pulling every which way a distance so very far from both the sky and the earth below, like each one of those things was a world unto themselves.

Trem could not muster the care to resist the aggressively carrying currents, the surging directions seeming to turn with fickle whims. The currents might as well be people fighting over him, forcing him to do their bidding, until someone else stole him and then did just the same except for their own desire instead. It was all like a game of tug of war, except instead of two directions, it was endless and circuitous, as many paths as the weave of chains had been and as many waves the ripples had formed in the grey fog his hand had stirred in the basement. Trem should have cared about what was going on, cared that he was not choosing where to go, but he simply did not, and he did not even care to understand why he felt like that. It was easier like this, to just be swept away in the tossing currents.

Light flashed, so bright Trem could see it behind his eyelids. The light flashed many times, the intervals in between nearly at random, and the spot of origination changing. He supposed it was lightning and thunder, friction stirring like from the clashes of boulders tumbling free from a mountain side to slam into one another or the falling of a hammer against a red hot blade in the process of being shaped and smelted from the forge, the piece where it was hottest mottled with rocky black on top of the red. He supposed it might be dangerous if he happened upon a cluster of clouds that the lightning coursed through, but he was not concerned. It was something beyond his careless apathy. He just felt like he would not be hurt. He was encumbered enough by the pulling currents. They were tossing him around to fulfill their wants and needs, why would they char their commodity?

Unless a current of clouds decided it would be inevitable the commodity of Trem would be used against itself, then that would be a reason why. Trem admitted to himself it would be more like realizing that Trem would be used to turn against any and all of them, just as he had been so many times. It was beyond him why the currents knew not this glaringly obvious fate when it might just be crucial to their survival.

But then, that was like thinking Trem was so important he held the fate of their lives in the balance. Trem doubted that was the case, doubted that he would change anything at all in the whole scheme of things, such as to whether or not one current would overtake another, if it was anything other than zealousness to snatch Trem up from another current, or if it was just happenstance and Trem was taken along for the ride. Maybe that was why he did not care, because he was simply being swept away. To him, it was little different than drifting on the winds, carried for many miles without cessation and in roughly the same direction. The discrepancies were that instead of one wind, it was like there were many, and were pulling him in many directions, without actually managing to get anywhere. No, maybe that was the heart of it. That for all the struggling, he went nowhere different than where he started.

Trem was sure he was overthinking it all. He was partly bored, and partly lethargic, drifting in a state somewhere between waking and sleeping; a state that had a very broad spectrum he never knew before. Whenever he thought of such a thing before this, he thought of the period when you were on the fringe of waking, the light barely registering behind his eyelids and the thoughts floating somewhere between utter nothing and the wondering realization of a new day. This was something entirely else, a depth to the state of mind and being he either never achieved before, or never recalled that he did. Maybe he would forget this too when he woke, if he was ever going to again. The thought was chilling and sobering, too distant to bring upon dread, dismay, and maybe even anxiety. The apathy that clung to Trem, like gossamer cobwebs to a wood rafter of a too high ceiling, wrapped about him like a cloak, shielding him from worries, even the thoughts that just an effective state of mind was not enough to protect someone from real dangers – as just because if you did not believe it would happen, did not mean it could not.

As Trem began to wonder if he actually managed to cover any distance from the spot he originally recalled, opening his eyes to the greyed murk, the currents violently shifted, turning choppy and turbulent in a style he had never gleaned of anything. This was worse and stranger than the ripples of the mist. He could only compare it to the angry seas of stories, dashing vessels against rocks, snapping their wooden masts in two, and swallowing them whole like the sea was a hungry beast. The sea was both an alluring and frightening creature to Trem, one he would never have the chance to confront. What was happening was as near he would ever get, and that was much too close for him. The cloak of apathy slipped away from Trem, leaving him bare in the wild currents, the tempo rising violently. He screamed as he was tossed about, every jerking turn threatening to snap some part of him in two, or entirely separate some limb from his body. He flailed into the murk of clouds, his hands opening to grasp on anything he could manage to, as if there would ever be anything out here. He screamed for so long, and for so many times, his voice grew hoarse and his throat hurt like a very tiny animal, smaller than a chipmunk, scratched dull claws against the flesh in a deranged fit.

“You are such a coward,” the sardonic voice said, clear through Trem’s screaming and the ponderous and intimidating sounds of the currents.

Trem tried to cry out to the sardonic voice, the only one who was there with him, and the only one who might be able to help him. It was a desperate grab, born of cowardice just as the voice said and Trem felt no shame in it, like in that moment Trem Imbernoc shed away that part of him that cared about such a frivolous thing as the desperate need for help.

And help did indeed come, but not in any way that Trem wished for. He rather would have his bones snapped and broken by the currents than that; he would even rather being burnt to char by the lightning than that. His wishes were not enough to deter what occurred. Through the roiling murk Trem saw the shackles upon his forearms return, of faded cobalt and strange rust, with the thickness of a front door, built to withstand the elements and intruders, be them animal or human. Through the hoarseness Trem screamed for a whole other reason than what he had, and it was in fury. Trem fell with the plummeting speed of a smoothly pitted rock from the heavens, the velocity and friction so fierce an aura of flame was roaring around it. Trem could not see if he had caught on fire like a rock from the heavens would. He spun and spun, so very similar to the time he first had when he smacked into that endless hall, except now it was clear his destination was all the more real.

Trem emerged from the greyed murk of clouds, their clashing and overcoming currents tossing in a wild roil overhead without him. Below him the Rivenlands stretched out in all directions, with zigzagging slices of split earth, forming pale scars visible from so high in the forests and the barren rocky land, with clusters of buildings clutching to one another that must had been villages. Then there were the Great Divides, hideous as an infested gash of a wound and as dark as a coal mine, leaving its dark reside on its workers, changing them to never be the same, even if it was only in their blackened lungs.

“I see you are afraid of heights. Tsk, tsk. I’m sure you can shield that soft spot on your head with that metal on your arms. Oh, you were saying you do not want the shackles? Hmm, maybe I should take them away…” the sardonic voice said, surely it was Dorum, very much there but disembodied. It was possible Dorum was just out of sight. Locating Dorum was not of any priority.

“You leave me alone Dorum!” Trem threatened through the terrifying whistle of the wind, while the gusts buffeted him, spinning him as he fell uncontrollably. His arms were stretched out before him in different directions, making him feel like he was being led by them, which were of two dissimilar heads.

“Oh, you want me to leave you alone now Imbernoc? I suppose you just want to strike the earth, don’t you? Fancy yourself a daredevil? Such a shame, your mother will cry so, even if she doesn’t have a soul. Doesn’t your lot believe in that? Souls. Well, she doesn’t have one. So, there’s that,” Dorum rambled on as if there was remotely the time to have such circuitous conversation.

“Would you spare the mother jokes!? If you can bleedin’ help me, do it! If not, leave me alone!” Trem shouted back, his throat tightening like that tiny animal had done another number on the flesh of his throat. Trem found it difficult to catch his breath, like the speeding wind was stealing all the air from his lungs, and preventing anything else from staying inside long enough to be of any use to Trem.

Trem was not able to experience any assistance from the disembodied Dorum before a craggy and dark mass reared up on the horizon, the image of it flipped upside down as the crown of Trem’s head was pointed right at the earth and his feet were pointing towards the sky and the surging murky clouds. The dark mass had a chain of rising peaks, like excessively narrow mountains with their tops sanded blunt with pieces of rock jutting out unevenly. The mass, which began to resemble structures of some very foreign sort, rose higher and higher as Trem continued to fall. Trem was so far away from them he could not see too much detail, but it did seem like they were made of something like hard, volcanic stone. Serrations lined their edges, and lines crisscrossed between them, attaching to one another in corpulent cables, while also forming a network above them like a mesh.

There had never been anything like that on the horizon of the Rivenlands, only very small and very few mountains and the sun itself. Nothing that Trem ever saw and nothing that anyone ever told him. Neither was there ever a scrap of such information. The only resemblance was the curiosities of distant kingdoms, dynasties, and an empire. If Trem ever doubted he was dreaming, he did not now. And from what Dorum had said, before he struck him into blackness with his own shackle - the thought which burned – to then only wake in the carrying and pulling angry currents, Trem surmised that when he struck the earth he would wake up. He was very reluctant at even the thought of it, but hopefully that was what would happen.

“Hopefully…” Dorum laughed darkly, sounding like he found a sick and twisted amusement in this.

__To Be Continued__

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