EoP – Part 121


Echoes of Power

Part 121


Back. And forth. One way and then the other, slowly and gracefully. The blade of grass danced in rhythm with the beats of his heart, slowly swaying from left to right and the from right to left. He could see it as clear as day. His eyes were closed, the sounds around him had all faded into the distance and he could barely feel the soft breeze or the warm sunrays on his face. His concentration was solely directed at his inner self, his thoughts and his feelings were focused on a single image: a lone blade of grass. It was a strange sensation that Alexandre had never quite experienced before. He knew he hadn’t moved from his spot on the grass but it felt like he was somehow floating around, he could still feel his whole body but it felt weightless.

In any other circumstance it would have felt completely to him to say this but at that precise moment it was as if he was one with the grass: floating around lightly and without a care in the world. It wasn’t as easy as he had thought to keep focusing his mind on a single object but somehow he managed to drive away any distraction that came his way for a period of time that felt like hours. He couldn’t say how long it had been however, perhaps even just a few minutes, and therefore he did not dare break his focus in fear of being reprimanded by Damian. The teenager suddenly noticed something peculiar however: as the blade of grass kept undulating it seemed to begin to glow slightly. It was almost unnoticeable, a sort of thin halo running along the border of the plant, however Alexandre couldn’t tell if it was the way he imagined the light around it or if it came from the blade of grass itself.

Just as he was beginning to focus on that strange vision, it disappeared. The teenager felt like he was suddenly pulled backwards, he was falling! He gasped and opened his eyes with a start. He had tried to yell but it had come out as a sharp gasp. His heart was beating loudly as he looked around and he felt beads of sweat roll on his face and arms. The sky was still as blue and as clear as before, the wind blew lightly on the hillside. The only thing that was different was the sun which had risen higher in the sky. Alexandre somehow deduced he had remained in his state of meditation (or whatever that had been) for a bit more than two full hours! As he calmed down his heart, his eyes darted all around, looking for the silhouette of the older man but, after a few seconds and having looked everywhere, the teenager realised that his teacher was gone. He must’ve left while I was deep in the meditation exercise.

“Without even a goodbye or anything…”, he groaned as he stood up.

Alexandre started stretching, taking that time to think about what he should be doing. If he left, does that mean it’s over for today or should I wait for him to come back? The young man was pondering the best option, carefully weighing the possible consequences to the next decision he would make, when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. ‘Next week, same place, same time.’ That was all the message said, short and to the point. Even the number was hidden, but Alexandre didn’t doubt for a second that it was coming from Damian.

“Well then…”, he sighed after a few minutes of stretching his stiff limbs.

He ran off towards the city at a slow pace, preferring to warm back up a little before picking up the pace.


Previous – Chapters – Next

Advertisements

EoP – Part 119


Echoes of Power

Part 119


“No.”

Alexandre shivered and corrected his body position for the third time in less than a minute as Damian tried to make him get in an uncomfortable sitting stance. The older man’s voice contained chilling accents and the teenager couldn’t help being affected by them.

“To begin training in the art of Empirium you must first learn the basics and to learn the basics you must first learn how to feel the flow of mana around you. Only when you manage to achieve the minimum requirements I impose on you, will you be able to begin trying to sense the energy circulating all around us. As I said, this training will not be easy.”, Damian said in a flat voice as he circled around the teenager.

The older man was slowly making Alexander correct his posture as he did so.

“Yes master.”, Alexandre replied.

“Quiet. You are not to talk anymore, not until I give you permission to do so again. Listen, learn and apply. That is all I require from you at the moment.”, Damian cut him off almost immediately.

“Now straighten your back, a little bit more… Good. This is the position you will learn to maintain while I teach you this exercise. Is that clear?”, he added as he kept circling his pupil.

“Yes master.”, replied Alexandre after an uncertain silence.

Damian did not speak, simply nodding (which Alexandre managed to guess, even with his eyes closed) and continuing to slowly walk around him. A few minutes passed like this in complete silence. The teenager could feel the warmth of the rays of light hitting his face and the soft wind rustling his hair. He tried his best not to move but he realized this was much harder than he had anticipated, it hadn’t even been ten full minutes (in his estimation) and he already wanted to get up, move his body, stretch his limbs and run around. He had also been able to feel the gaze of the older man fixated on him the whole time despite his lack of words. Finally, as he was feeling his legs getting numb, his teacher spoke.

“Good. Notice how your breathing has become slower and more even, this is proof that you are holding the right position,” Damian said, sounding satisfied, “what I want you to do know is to relax as much as you can, try to empty your mind as much as possible at the same time.”

Alexandre hesitated on whether to react to his master’s words or not, but decided to remain silent and simply do as he said. Moving or talking would mean breaking his position and he was almost sure it wouldn’t be well perceived. He tried relax, though it wasn’t really easy with him natural flexibility (or lack of, to be more accurate), so he quickly focused on emptying his mind. He had already tried a to do a bit of meditation in the past, mostly at the request of his mother and had heard quite a bit about it from her. Sadly he had never managed to completely focus on the task and always ended up distracted. This time was not exception. Each time he tried to focus on nothing in particular, a number of wild thoughts barged to the front of his consciousness. For a few minutes he struggled with it and it must have shown on his face because once more he head his teacher’s voice from his side.

“Stop. I can see you’re not doing this right, you’re going nowhere with this. You mustn’t force yourself to focus on nothing, don’t try to think about a void in your mind, you’ll only drive yourself crazy. That is the worst way to calm down and to clear your thoughts.”, Damian paused and Alexandre heard him walk in a circle around him a few times before continuing. “Exceptionally, and since this is only the beginning, I will give you a chance. Here is a piece of advice, the only one you’ll be receiving from me about this: don’t focus on nothing or on everything, start small. Try focusing on a single thought and work from there. Repetition is the greatest training.”


Previous – Chapters – Next

EoP – Part 118


Echoes of Power

Part 118


The older man hadn’t looked away even once since he had begun his explanation. Alexandre could feel his cold blue eyes fixedly studying his reaction as he listened to him.

“What I am going to teach you,” Damian said after another short pause, “is how to sense, refine and use this energy to make it do your biding. It will not be easy, not even one bit. You will have to work extremely hard, harder than you have to this day, and potentially hurt yourself quite gravely to achieve any result. But if you do, in exchange, you will completely push open the doors to a world you can’t imagine yet, and perhaps you will be able to tread more safely along this path…”

“Now,” continued Damian, “I have already explained to you what geigers -the creatures that attacked you- were, I have given you a few indications about what Empirium is and you have seen for yourself some of what it could do. Do you have any question that you wish to ask before we begin? This is the perfect chance because after this morning, you will do everything as I ask. Though I must warn you: ask only questions that are worthy of answering because I am a firm believer that stupid questions exist!”

Alexandre nodded and remained silent for a while, pondering. He racked his brains in search of potential questions for a few seconds, unsure if he had any that wouldn’t seem stupid to his teacher (he couldn’t help feeling slightly weird at the thought of Damian being his ‘magic’ teacher).

“Yes master, I do have one question.”, he finally said.

Damian looked at him but did not reply, simply staring at the teenager as if silently inviting him to ask it if he dared.

“Why would you decide to show me any of this? You don’t know me so why help me back then? Why not… let me die?”

Alexander almost cringed as he spoke, only barely managing to keep a straight face. The question didn’t seem stupid to him, he wanted to know the reason why someone like Damian would decide to help him. There were a few reasons to that, the main one being that the blue-eyed man in front of him didn’t seem like someone who really cared about others. So why save him? Was there something behind this decision? He looked at his newly found teacher as the man seemed to ponder if his interrogation was worthy of an answer.

“Not bad,” Damian finally said, “that is a passable question so I will answer it.”

The man paused for a moment before continuing.

“It was not because I particularly cared nor because I am usually inclined to do this, I saved you simply because I felt it might be entertaining afterwards. The reason I am offering to train you now is mostly the same: I do this to entertain myself, nothing more. That is why, if I am ever discontent with your attitude or investment in what I kindly offer you, I will simply put a stop to it. So, if you want to learn as much as you can, you have better make sure to keep my interest up… Is that clear?”, Damian said in a casual tone, not looking away once as he spoke.

Alexandre swallowed with difficulty as his teacher went silent again. He had somehow been expecting that, that man wasn’t quite… normal, if that was the word. The teenager had a feeling things were not going to be very pleasant from then on…

“Yes master.”, he finally replied with a short nod.

Damian seemed pleased, or something akin to that, if anything. He stood up, towering over the teenager who was sitting on the ground, as walked behind him.

“Very well then, let us begin. Sit straight and close your eyes!”, he exclaimed, his voice clear but cold.


Previous – Chapters – Next

EoP – Part 117


Echoes of Power

Part 117


“As I am sure you have noticed, there is something different about you, something… unusual, to put it in kind words.” Damian started as Alexandre sat besides him on the grass, “Those creatures that attacked you, they were real. I can assure you that much. You are not dreaming, this is not some hallucination, or delusion of your mind, this is reality. Cold and harsh.”

He paused to look the teenager straight in the eye. Alexandre had to refrain a shiver as he found himself immediately made uncomfortable by the two blue orbs, it felt as if the older man could look directly through him, into the deepest corners of his mind.

“If I hadn’t intervened, you would probably have died. It’s as simple as that.”

Once again he was silent, giving Alexandre time to take it in. If the teenager couldn’t at least come to terms with that then it was useless to waste time on him. At least he seems to be reflecting on that, Damian thought. That seemed a positive sign.

“I- I understand that,” Alexandre replied.

It was true, he did understand the point the older man was making. It had already started dawning on him some time ago and he hadn’t been able to refrain the icy chills since then. What if he hadn’t been there that time? The first time had been pure luck, the teenager still couldn’t say how he had managed to survive it… Plus he had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last time he encountered such strange -and dangerous- things, so he had to be ready, to be able to defend himself. Even if just a little. Damian silently nodded before speaking again.

“What I am going to teach you will not make you invincible, it will not make you strong. You will not learn to bend the laws of our world, at most, and depending on your hard work, you will be able to blur them a little, to curve them slightly. My teachings do not have the goal to make you a superhero or anything close. I will simply be opening your eyes to new possibilities and showing you the potential ways to go. Only you will be able to act upon this new knowledge and explore them. Is that understood?”, he then asked.

“Yes master,” the teenager replied, listening carefully.

“Good,” said Damian before pausing for a short moment as if he was pondering something. “Tell me, what do you know about mana?”, he then asked.

Alexandre furrowed his eyebrows, trying to think about what he knew. He knew that it was something used by video games as a magical energy but that it was based of beliefs and myths about a secret inner energy that could be shaped by one to affect their bodies and the world around them. Apart from the other names it had in different cultures he didn’t know much, though apparently it seemed important for what Damian was about to teach him.

Once again he older man nodded as Alexandre gave voice to his thoughts.

“Yes, you are partly right. Mana, under this name or others, appears in many cultures, mostly in video games nowadays. Why do you think that is? Because there is truth to it, like there is to many of the tales and legends that people tell,” the man in his forties explained. “To an empirist, one who trains in the art of empirium, it is the name of the energy -if you wish to call it that way- that we act upon to bend the laws of this world. It is somewhat akin to fuel that is used to power vehicles. To an empirist it is, to make another analogy, both the paint and the brush that we use to give form to our desires.”


Previous – Chapters – Next

EoP – Part 116


Echoes of Power

Part 116


“You are late,” was the first thing the teenager heard as he approached the man he had met just a few days before.

“Yeah, I know, I’m sorry I-“, he began his reply but was interrupted.

“I told you not to be late,” he heard Damian say, cutting him in the middle of his sentence and

Alexandre looked at the older man, frowning as his surprise slowly passed. He almost grunted. Almost. The only reason he managed to refrain himself from doing so was that he had a feeling that in doing so he would earn himself another snarky remark. He was realizing too late he had been right in his negative premonition a few minutes earlier, almost regretting his decision to have come. Damian’s face was an unreadable mask as he sat on the ground, his blue scarf around his neck and his legs crossed. His hands were on his thighs and he was visibly doing something akin to meditation. The man hadn’t even opened his eyes or moved to greet the teenager even though Alexandre was sure he had heard him approach and recognized him. The light-haired teen was beginning to regret his decision to accept someone like that as his teacher, whatever the odds of him being killed by dangerous creatures in the future…

“Do you regret your decision?”, suddenly asked Damian, still in the same position, as if he had read the teenager’s thoughts.

“Uh…”, Alexandre began, his surprise making him hesitate, “no, no! I don’t regret it, I just…”, he paused again, unsure of what to say.

Damian remained silent, as if he was waiting for his student, inviting him to explain himself. Alexandre’s hesitation didn’t last long though. He had been prepared to anything when he had accepted Damian as his teacher, well, not anything, as he didn’t even know what would happen next, but he knew it wasn’t going to be something ‘normal’… Plus, despite the thoughts that had crossed his mind, he wasn’t ready to die yet and if that weird dude, sitting on the grass in front of him, could help with that he wasn’t going to say no. Plus he wanted answers, he needed answers. Whatever I have to do, he thought as he opened his mouth again, no matter if this is a bad decision.

“I just have so many questions that I don’t know where to begin,” he replied as he walked the few paces that separated him from the strange man who had agreed to tell him about what was going on.

“Alright then!”, Damian exclaimed as he finally opened his eyes, looking at the teenager with his unsettling blue eyes.

“I will answer your questions, that I have promised, but before we begin anything I must ask you, are you willing to let me teach you about the art of Empirium?”, he then said, still looking straight at Alexandre, before adding, “You know why I am asking that, don’t you? This is not going to be easy in the least, learning to read and use the flow of mana will come with a price, do you accept that?”

“Yes.”, replied Alexandre with a nod, not even letting himself a moment to think about it.

He wanted to know and he saw no other way, at least none in which he could keep it all to himself… Damian looked at him silently for a moment, as if he was evaluating the teenager’s resolve, before nodding and standing up.

“Very well. From now on you are my student, I am your master and that is how we will refer to each other. You will do as I say, no question, no complaint, just follow my orders. I will answer your questions, if you have any, when the time comes, that is when I decide so. I will do it then and only then. In the meantime you will know only what you need to know. Is that understood?”

“Yes!”, replied Alexandre, looking straight back.

The teenager saw Damian frown slightly, the man took a few steps towards him, their gaze never breaking off.

“‘Yes master.’, that is how you will reply to me from now on, only in that manner. Once more, is that understood?”

Alexandre almost froze again, the intensity of the gaze was barely sustainable as it became clear he hadn’t been wrong about Damian. This was not going to be easy.

“Yes master.”, he repeated, straightening slightly at the words.

Damian nodded, seemingly satisfied, before sitting back down.

“Now sit, there are things you need to know before we begin…”


Previous – Chapters – Next

The rider in the storm

Image source unknown


Night. The darkest hour. When all hope disappears. Thunder is rumbling, the wind is howling madly. The grass on the hills is bending under the power of the storm. Rain is falling hard on the ground, plundering the earth. A dark shadow is moving. A horse is running, a rider on its back. Running as fast as it can, as if its life depended on it. Running as quick as the wind. He rides, never looking back, hoping they are okay. Praying to reach them in time. The world seems against him; as if the gods were mad at him. As if they had unleashed Hell on Earth. Droplets of water, as cold and hard as ice hits him in the face, rendering him unable to see more than a few meters in front of him.

Lightning strikes, once, twice, giving shape to the shadow of a ghost. A ghost from the past that is catching up on him. He knows he should run away but he can’t. He has to cope with that growing unease growing inside him. They need him! He has to get there at all cost! He has to make it, his steed knows it also. The mighty stallion gains speed, outrunning the heavy gusts of wind. Its mane buzzing frantically as it gains more speed, sparks forming around its legs. Getting bigger and more frequent with each new step. Suddenly it lights up in a thunderous boom, thousands of tiny lighting bolts coming out of its mane and its tail, covering its entire body. It gains even more speed, running so fast it outruns even the heavenly flashes. Cutting through the mad rain, leaving a burnt trail behind it. He runs an impossible race. A race for his friends. A race against time, against himself. A race against death…


Here is a text I wrote some time ago, a scene from one of my stories that I have had in mind for some time.

EoP – Part 114


Echoes of Power

Part 114


Alexandre was left there, standing before the bus stop, unmoving. His mouth hung half-open as he could still faintly feel the slight coldness of the trace of moisture on his cheek. His eyes were looking straight forward but were unfocused, he could still see the red lights of the bus slowly disappearing far down the street. The night was cold and the light wind didn’t really help but the teenager was completely impervious to that, it didn’t bother him in the slightest. He even felt a bit hot at that exact moment. He closed his eyes, replaying the previous instants in his mind and couldn’t refrain a wide smile from spreading on his lips once again. Slowly he raised his hand and traced along them, from one corner of his mouth to the other, having a hard time believing what had just happened.

His skin was still tingling intensely at the touch, as if her lips were still on his, as if Chloe was still there, kissing him. A few moments passed before he opened his eyes again and let out a nervous yet overjoyed laugh, they had kissed… He and Chloe had kissed… This all felt like a dream, it was too good to be true, it had to be! As if the universe had sensed his doubt however, and had somehow decided to punish him for not believing hard enough, his phone rang at that exact moment. Alexandre sluggishly took it out and checked his notifications, he had one unread message. He felt as if someone had poured cold water over him as he read it.

‘Tomorrow, 8 o’clock, the hills. Dont be late. D.’

He had given Damian his number a few days before when he had agreed to teach him about Empirium. Alexandre had felt pretty good and confident at that moment but now it didn’t seem like such a good decision, he had the feeling the man wasn’t someone to trifled with, dangerous even, but the light-haired teen also began to fear he was going to be a very strict teacher… On the other hand he wanted to learn more about his abilities and Damian was the only one who knew something about it and cared to explain (not counting Bryan of course, but telling his best friend was not an option). No he had to go.

“Well,” he said out loud, though more to himself than to anybody around –there is no body around anyways– as he locked his phone and put it back in his pocket, “at least the evening was worth it. So worth it!”

He couldn’t help the giggle that escaped him and hastily looked around to make sure there was nobody around. He let out a small relieved sigh when he realized he was indeed all alone ont he street.

“Yes!”, he exclaimed again, throwing his fist in the air with a large smile.

Alexandre started to walk back home, the house was almost half an hour by foot but he didn’t want to take the bus. He wanted to take some alone time to wander around and think. He took out his headphones and started the music where he had left it earlier that evening while he waited for his date to arrive. Everything had went so well, he had a hard time believing his luck. Chloe was such a beautiful and nice girl AND she seemed to enjoy spending time with him and talking about all sorts of things (most of which interested him). Alexandre wasn’t really sure why she was interested in him, he wasn’t really that handsome per say and he was a bit dorky on the side, but somehow she had set her eyes on him and she hadn’t seemed disappointed after that evening with him, on the contrary! After all she had been the one to kiss him… And what a kiss! Wait ’till I tell you how this evening went Bry’, you’re gonna be so jealous!


Previous – Chapters – Next

EoP – Part 113


Echoes of Power

Part 113


How many apologies since the beginning of the evening? Damn it! Not the time to be worrying about that, he scolded himself as he managed to straighten in his chair. He noticed after a quick glance that almost everybody around was looking at them, even the waiters were ready to spring into action the second the situation seemed to worsen. He made quick sign towards them to reassure them and drank the rest of his glass of water. Slowly he managed to calm down his heart and the burning feeling in his lungs, this was not remotely as bad as with the creatures in the alley –Alexandre! I said not now!– but it still hurt like hell.

Plus his pride had taken a hit too, he had managed to mostly ridiculize himself in front of Chloe… Not that she would hold it against him surely, she looked like she was more inclined to laugh than anything else, but it didn’t make him feel very confident, that was for sure! He took a few deep breaths before trying to speak again.

“My apologies, I wasn’t planning on dying tonight but apparently someone is not okay with that…”, he managed to smile as he said that.

“So it seems…”, nodded his date as she tried to stifle her laugh.

Alexandre found himself unable to resist the urge to smile and giggle with her and soon they were both laughing at his near near-death experience, both had tears rolling down their cheeks and had to restrain themselves so as not to bother every other client in the restaurant. Once he finally managed to calm himself the light-haired teen found that his pain and his anxiousness at the thought of having ridiculed himself in front of Chloe had both faded away int he back of his mind. He let his eyes wander on her figure, from her hands covered in numerous small scars -apparently she was an art lover and it was not as relaxing and fluffy as everyone might think- to her clear eyes and her golden hair.

“What?”, she asked as she finally noticed him staring at her.

“Nothing!”, he replied hurriedly, “it’s just…”, he paused, unsure once again.

He locked his gaze with hers, unsure why he hesitated, she cute, she was funny, she was intelligent and charming, he liked her and, most of all, she also liked him… Almost certainly as more than a friend. So why wasn’t he sure? He himself didn’t even know, he couldn’t explain why, it was something unconscious, nagging him at the back of his mind. As if a voice was whispering things in his ear… Why? He had no clue… Alexandre was trying to put his finger on what it might have been when he saw Chloe smile once again. All his doubts suddenly evaporated. No, it was different this time. He like her, he knew it, no, he was sure of it.

“Well?”, the object of his reflection asked as she seemed to wait impatiently for an answer.

Alexandre didn’t understand why he would even think of refusing this, a beautiful and charming girl had practically confessed her feeling for him, feeling which were mutual -at least on his part- and he had wanted for a second to say no? Hell! He had to get his head checked, this thing with the geiger must have left some brain damage…

“Well, it’s just that…”, he paused again, not because he was unsure this time, just to toy with her a little more, and to make this moment last a little longer, “I really like you too Chloe…”, he added, unable to hide his wide smile.


Previous – Chapters – Next

EoP – Part 112


Echoes of Power

Part 112


“Sorry, could you repeat that? I didn’t quite catch what you said…”, he quickly apologized to his date.

Great. Very smooth Alex, very smooth… he scolded himself silently with a mental smack.

“Yeah, I guessed from the look on your face…” Chloe replied with a laugh. “Well you know what we say about ears and a good wash, don’t you?” she added, taunting him with a smirk.

“Yeah, sorry, I uh… sort of lost track of the conversation here…”, Alexandre explained, cringing slightly.

“It doesn’t matter, I know I’m not that interesting anyways…”, Chloe nodded as she took a sip of her drink and shrugged.

“No! That’s… it’s not what I meant,” Alexandre tried to explain, starting to uncomfortable.

He suspected she was just toying with him but he didn’t want a moment of inattention to ruin the evening… Plus she had seemed serious as she spoke earlier so he was pretty sure it was something important.

“I’m sorry for not listening,” he repeated once again, “so what were you saying?”, he then asked with curiosity.

The blonde girl looked at him for a moment, a look that Alexandre couldn’t quite describe or understand. There was something deep in her eyes as they sparkled with her usual playfulness, but at the same time he could tell she was slightly nervous. She was looking straight at him, as if she was pondering her options. He couldn’t for the life of him guess what was going on in her head at that moment, that was one of the things he liked about her. She slowly put her glass back on the table and he saw her shoulders rise as she took in a deep breath.

“Ok,” was all she said for a moment, breaking the silence only to let it take over again.

Alexandre was about to say something when she opened her mouth and cut him short.

“I quite like you, you know…” she added, pausing again. “That’s what I said…”

Alexandre almost didn’t catch the second bit, the short justification was drowned in a torrent of white noise as his mind went blank. Had he heard right? Had she really said that? Did she mean what he thought she meant? What was he supposed to reply? Why did the room suddenly seem to shrink? What kind of fish was that on the table over there? Focus damn it! He scolded himself as he looked at her, unable to (and mostly unwilling to make the effort to) hide the half-blank half-shocked expression on his faced.

“Uh…”, was all he managed to replied after a few seconds.

“‘Uh…’ what?”, Chloe asked, not looking very fazed by what was happening. “I just said that I liked you, is ‘uh…’ all you have to say to that? I thought you were better than that Alex, has a kitten gotten ahold of your tongue Mister Parson?”, she added, a small smirk spreading on her face once again.

Alexandre almost choked as he tried to speak, falling into a coughing fit for a second as he tried to get his breath back. He felt the heat quickly rise in his cheeks, which probable had turned scarlet red by that point. Damn! What a fool he was making of himself… Having seen his difficulty, the blonde teenager had leaned over towards him and given him a few energetic pats on the back to prevent him from really choking.

“Deep breaths, deep breaths!” she exclaimed as she did so, her smirk still half there.

The other half of her expression was something akin to worry. Oh god, she’s worried about me! Alexandre felt his cheeks become even warmer, if that was even possible. They would probably catch on fire very soon if this kept going on.


Previous – Chapters – Next

Ombre & Plumes – 2 – Carmen

artworktavern


D’ombre et de plumes

2

Carmen


L’agitation des quartiers portuaires se dissipait petit à petit à mesure que Thrista avançait dans les rues d’Eneleïa ; le quartier est vers lequel il se dirigeait était comparativement beaucoup plus calme. Seuls quelques passants s’y baladaient tranquillement. Cela s’expliquait par le fait que la partie est de la ville était principalement composée d’habitations et de résidences ce qui avait pour effet de n’attirer que très peu les touristes. L’adolescent aperçut quelques locaux en train de décorer le bord des rues et les façades des bâtiments de draps et de fleurs aux multiples couleurs. Cela contrastait avec la clarté des murs qu’ils recouvraient, ces derniers étant majoritairement marron ou blanc-beige dépendamment qu’ils soient en pierre ou en bois. Thrista savait que les habitants profitaient de ce moment de répit et de calme pour se préparer à la tempête qui allait venir avec le début du festival deux jours plus tard. Lui même avait décidé de revenir quelques jours avant pour se donner le temps de flâner dans les rues alors que celles-ci étaient encore relativement peu en proie à l’agitation. Il pouvait cependant déjà sentir la tension qui montait à l’approche de la célébration du mariage princier, tous attendaient l’annonce du début des trois jours de célébration pour se laisser aller à la joie et à l’ivresse. Il passa par l’une des nombreuses rues secondaires, déjà peu fréquentées par les locaux et encore moins par les touristes, et se retrouva devant une petite bâtisse faite de bois et dont l’enseigne usée par le temps mais toujours bien lisible indiquait le nom : En Carménie.
Malgré sa taille peu imposante, encore réduite par les deux hautes résidences s’élevant de chaque côté, la réputation de l’établissement n’avait rien à envier aux autres auberges. Elle était réputée chez les connaisseurs comme l’une des meilleurs du coin, une des perles cachées d’Eneleïa grâce à popularité de son plat spécial préparé par la patronne elle même. Un excellent minestrone avec courgettes, carottes, pâtes, viandes hachées et quelques dizaines d’épices et autres ingrédients gardés secret. Cette seule pensée du jeune homme suffit à lui mettre l’eau à la bouche, cela faisait tellement longtemps qu’il n’avait pas goûté à la cuisine de Carmen. C’est là que Thrista comptait loger le temps de son séjour car il connaissait bien la patronne, une petite bonne femme approchant de la cinquantaine et dont les cheveux couleur rouille commençaient tout juste à grisonner. C’était l’endroit où il avait séjourné à chaque passage dans la ville portuaire avec son père et il en gardait d’excellents souvenirs. C’était aussi là qu’il avait passé ses quelques jours avant de quitter le continent au début de son périple. Le jeune homme se dirigea donc droit vers l’enseigne au fougueux cheval de noir et de blanc qui semblait avoir été repeinte depuis la dernière fois. Les rideaux étaient tirés aux fenêtres, signe que l’établissement ne rouvrirait qu’au prochain repas, mais il poussa la porte sans la moindre hésitation et entra. Il ne fut pas surpris de voir la pièce déserte, par une journée pareille et à ce moment de l’après midi il était tout à fait normal de n’y trouver personne : tout bon touriste s’était déjà éclipsé depuis un moment. Il salua tout de même dans le vide, plus pour signaler sa présence à quiconque serait dans l’arrière cuisine que pour s’introduire réellement, mais fut surpris d’entendre une voix familière lui répondre du fond de la salle.
« Bienvenue à vous, entrez, entrez ! Je suis à vous tout de suite ! »
Thrista n’avait pas eu le temps de s’habituer à la pénombre mais dès qu’il entendit la voix il ne put s’empêcher de sourire. Nul besoin de ses yeux pour savoir qui venait de lui répondre. Il s’avança et dut attendre d’être au milieu de la pièce avant que ses yeux ne se soient entièrement habitués à l’espèce de pénombre qui y régnait pour apercevoir la petite silhouette penchée au dessus d’une table.
« Bonjour ! s’exclama-t-il à nouveau, toujours en souriant. Je ne t’avais pas vu Carmen, je croyais qu’il n’y avait plus personne. C’est fou, j’ai l’impression que rien n’a changé depuis la dernière fois !
– Ah ! Oui, je suis désolé pour l’obscurité. Je profite de l’absence momentanée de tout le monde pour faire un peu de ménage et je ne supporte pas de le faire avec le soleil qui me tape dessus. En plus il fait une de ses chaleurs aujourd’hui ! On est bien mieux à l’intérieur, répondit-elle tout en continuant de s’affairer sur la table qu’elle s’efforçait de faire reluire. Mais, nous connaissons nous ?, demanda-t-elle enfin en relevant la tête en souriant, l’air satisfait.
– Eh bien ? Tu ne te souviens pas de moi ? Remarque cela fait un moment que l’on ne s’est pas vu, concéda le jeune homme. »
La dénommée Carmen s’approcha alors de plus près pour l’observer, elle resta ainsi à le regarder, les sourcils froncés par dessus ses yeux gris, pendant quelques secondes. Le sourire du jeune homme s’agrandit lentement alors qu’il attendait que la patronne de l’auberge le reconnaisse enfin. Il avait bien changé depuis la dernière fois, plus grand d’au moins dix bon centimètres, les épaules plus larges, ses cheveux sombres avaient poussé, ils lui arrivaient à présent au milieu des oreilles alors qu’il les avait toujours gardé très courts auparavant. Bref il était presque méconnaissable. Presque, car la femme fronça soudain les sourcils.
« Tes yeux…, murmura-t-elle, oui ! Je m’en souviens ! Thrista ! Mes dieux ! Je ne t’avais pas reconnu ! Comme tu as changé… Combien de temps cela fait-il ? Un an ? Deux peut-être ? », demanda-t-elle alors que son sourire, disparut au profit d’un froncement de sourcil un moment auparavant, reparaissait à présent.
– C’est bien moi, acquiesça le jeune homme, toujours le sourire aux lèvres.
– Mes dieux, cela fait tellement longtemps…, murmura Carmen avant de franchir la distance les séparant en quelques pas et de le prendre dans ses bras.  »
Malgré sa petite taille la quinquagénaire possédait une force hors du commun, cela, couplé à un caractère et une volonté de fer, lui permettait de toujours parvenir à ses fins. Thrista eu un instant le souffle coupé mais lui rendit ensuite son embrassade avec joie, heureux de la retrouver après tout ce temps. Dès sa première visite à Eneleïa avec son père, ce dernier lui avait présenté l’aubergiste, une vieille connaissance à lui, et le jeune homme s’était attaché à cette bonne femme au caractère bien trempé mais à la gentillesse sans pareille. Visiblement l’attachement avait eu lieu dans les deux sens car Thrista vit une larme rouler sur la joue parsemée de taches de rousseur de l’aubergiste alors que celle-ci le relâchait enfin. Elle lui fit un sourire avant de se retourner pour se moucher légèrement et essuyer sa joue.
« Comment m’as-tu reconnu aussi vite ?, demanda-t-il alors, curieux de savoir car le jeune homme espérait pouvoir la faire marcher un peu plus longtemps avant de lui dire.
– Ce sont tes yeux, répondit-elle en se tournant à nouveau vers lui, tu as beau avoir grandi, tu as toujours le même regard que ton père quand il était jeune. »
Thrista acquiesça à nouveau. Elle n’était pas la première à lui dire qu’il ressemblait à son paternel.
« Tu sais, reprit Carmen avant qu’il n’ouvre la bouche, je pensais vraiment que tu courrais à ta perte en voulant partir aussi loin… Tu n’étais qu’un enfant, trop jeune pour ce genre de choses… Mais apparemment je me trompais, puisque te voila revenu en pleine forme ! »
Le jeune homme pu voir l’éclair d’inquiétude qui passa dans l’œil de la patronne de l’auberge et imagina aisément tout le souci qu’elle avait pu se faire pour lui, aussi fit-il un grand sourire. Ce périple n’avait en effet pas toujours été simple, au contraire, il avait fait face à des situations dangereuses plus d’une fois, mais il était revenu sain et sauf et, il l’espérait, plus fort. C’était tout ce qu’elle avait besoin de savoir.
« Oui. J’ai eu la chance de voyager en bonne compagnie, dit-il en posant sur l’épaule de l’aubergiste une main rassurante.
– Tant mieux alors. »
Carmen sursauta soudain, semblant se souvenir de quelque chose d’important.
« Que je suis bête ! Je ne t’ai toujours rien proposé ! Je suis là à discuter avec toit depuis tout à l’heure et je ne remplis même pas mon rôle d’hôtesse… s’exclama-t-elle en se donnant une légère tape sur la tête. Veux-tu quelque chose à manger ? Tu dois être affamé après ce long voyage…
– Ne t’inquiète pas, les repas étaient très bon à bord du Leikan ! répondit Thrista avec un petit sourire. Mais je t’avouerai que je ne suis pas contre un petite collation, si tu as quelque chose de simple bien sur ! ajouta-t-il immédiatement, ne voulant pas la faire se déplacer pour rien.
– Bien sur mon choux ! s’exclama Carmen en lui adressant un clin d’œil avant de se diriger vers la cuisine, j’ai toujours quelque chose pour toi ! Oh ! Et assied toi où tu veux, j’en ai pour deux minutes. »
Thrista ne répondit pas mais s’installa à une table non loin, posant sa besace et sa cape à ses pieds et profitant de l’absence de l’aubergiste pour jeter un regard à son établissement. L’auberge paraissait minuscule de l’extérieur mais une fois à l’intérieur elle dégageait, grâce à son aménagement intelligent et efficace, une impression d’immensité. Plusieurs chandeliers pendaient du plafond haut, loin au dessus de la tête, aucune cloison ne venait entraver la vue des clients, seules quelques énormes poutres en chêne massif soutenaient le tout de ci de là. On aurait dit l’intérieur d’une église faite de bois au lieu de pierre. Thrista entendit Carmen siffler depuis l’arrière cuisine et ne put empêcher un petit rire. Cela lui rappelait de nombreux et bons souvenirs. Peu avait changé depuis son dernier passage, la seule différence qu’il pouvait apercevoir était le nombre de tables qui avait légèrement augmenté et l’apparence de la salle, tout semblait comme neuf. L’adolescent savait cela du à la grande attention que l’aubergiste prenait à astiquer, rénover et conserver son mobilier mais il ne pouvait s’empêcher d’être impressionné. Son ventre grommelait son insatisfaction lorsqu’il aperçut la petite femme revenir vers lui les bras chargés d’un large plat recouvert de nourriture.
« Ne t’inquiète pas, c’était sur le feu et le reste je l’ai pris dans les placards, rien de bien compliqué. Je comptais moi-même manger de toute façon, expliqua-t-elle avant que le jeune homme en puisse protester. »
Thrista se contenta donc d’accepter silencieusement, préférant ne pas énerver son hôte en protestant car il la savait extrêmement persuasive quand elle le voulait. Il se servit donc de la viande grillée dans une assiette et commença à la déguster. Il mangèrent un moment en silence, le jeune homme piquant dans tous les plats disposés devant lui, mangeant des biscuits secs, des légumes, de la viande, des fruits et du fromage avec grand plaisir et grand appétit. Carmen elle dégustait une soupe à ce que Thrista pouvait dire et semblait grandement l’apprécier. Le jeune homme en déduisit que ce devait être la célèbre ragoût de poisson de Wlad, le cuisinier habituel de l’établissement.
« Comment se fait-il que tu sois déjà de retour ? Je croyais que tu n’avais prévu de revenir que pour le tournoi… s’enquit enfin la patronne avec un soupir de contentement en reposant son bol vide sur la table.
– A vrai dire j’ai changé d’avis, commença-t-il en prenant une dernière bouchée de son morceau de viande, au cours de mon voyage j’ai eu l’occasion de voir d’innombrables choses et de rencontrer de nombreuses personnes. J’ai appris énormément, seul mais aussi avec des compagnons de voyage que j’ai pu rencontrer. Mais je crois que lorsque j’ai appris pour le mariage j’ai réalisé qu’Ore me manquait et qu’il était temps de rentrer.
– Oh ! s’exclama Carmen avec un petit sourire en coin, ton retour n’est donc pas une simple coïncidence, tu es bien revenu pour voir la princesse !

– Oui. Répondit Thrista, tentant de ne pas rougir. Je ne pouvais pas louper ça… »
Carmen le regarda un long moment avec attention, le fixant de ses prunelles vert-de-gris, avant de sourire en hochant la tête, comme si elle approuvait silencieusement ce qu’elle venait juste de penser.
« Eh bien en tout cas, tu as bien raison ! dit-elle en prenant une gorgée de son verre d’eau. Tu ne peux pas savoir à quel point ça me fait plaisir de te revoir ! Combien de temps comptes-tu rester cette fois ? Demanda-t-elle. Le temps du mariage j’imagine.
– Oui, le temps de la célébration, acquiesça Thrista.
– Eh bien mon humble auberge t’est ouverte autant de temps que tu le souhaite, tu es le bienvenu ! s’exclama-t-elle en désignant l’établissement de la main. »
Elle se leva ensuite et, une fois s’être assurée que le jeune homme n’avait plus faim, ramena le plateau en cuisine avant de revenir presque immédiatement. Thrista s’était levé et regardait à nouveau autour de lui lorsqu’elle reparut à ses côtés.
« Viens, je vais te montrer ta chambre. Je dois en avoir une ou deux de libre au deuxième qui sont très calmes et très confortables si cela te convient.
– Tout ce que tu auras à me proposer, tu sais que je ne suis pas difficile. Et puis je me sens toujours bien ici. »
Le jeune aperçut les joues de la femme rosir légèrement à son compliment alors qu’elle passait devant lui pour le guider jusqu’à ses quartiers le temps de son séjour. Elle attrapa au passage une clé sur un large tableau de bois fixé au mur. Ce dernier était presque vide, ce qui indiquait que l’établissement était quasiment complet, pourtant tout était silencieux et le jeune homme n’avait vu personne depuis son arrivée. Il en déduit que les clients devaient soit être en train de faire la sieste soit en train de flâner dans les rues d’Eneleïa. De plus l’heure du repas n’étant pas encore arrivée, tout était et resterait calme un moment. Lorsqu’il eu fait le tour de la pièce et déposé ses affaires à côté de son lit le jeune homme redescendit dans la grande salle, fermant la porte à clé par sécurité. Il retrouva la patronne en train de nettoyer les différentes tables tout au fond de la salle.
« Tu as eu le temps de t’installer ?, demanda-t-elle en lui adressant un sourire sans s’interrompre dans sa tâche.
– Oui, merci, répondit Thrista en hochant la tête. D’ailleurs, combien te dois-je pour la chambre ? »
L’adolescent ne put même pas le temps d’insister tant le refus de l’aubergiste fut immédiat et catégorique, elle refusait de faire payer un ami de longue date qui logeait dans son établissement et il n’allait pas l’en dissuader. Thrista ne put que se résoudre à accepter la décision de la patronne avec un léger soupir, il savait qu’insister était peine perdue. Aussi préféra-t-il proposer son aide pour les tâches ménagères, ce que Carmen accepta avec plaisir après un court débat. Le jeune homme se mit donc immédiatement au travail, assistant la petite femme dans son travail. Ils discutèrent ainsi pendant les quelques heures qui suivirent, astiquant les surfaces boisées, récurant le sol et disposant les couverts sur les tables pour le repas du soir. Le jeune homme raconta à son hôte les nombreuses découvertes et rencontres qu’il avait pu faire au cours de son périple, notamment sur Simériah, terre que Carmen n’avait jamais visitée jusqu’à présent.
Lorsqu’ils s’arrêtèrent enfin la nuit tombait déjà et, à travers les fenêtres dégagées pour laisser entrer la lumière affaiblie du soleil, on pouvait apercevoir les rues commençant s’illuminer et à se remplir de curieux. Les chars, en préparations pour le défilé depuis de longues semaines déjà, étaient sur le point d’être achevés et prenaient enfin véritablement forme. De nombreux badauds venaient en observer l’apparence. Quelques clients commencèrent à affluer et Thrista aperçu Wlad qui rentrait visiblement de sa pause de l’après-midi alors qu’il montait en direction de sa chambre. Le jeune homme se résolut à aller le saluer plus tard et prit sa cape avant de se diriger vers la porte. Une fois dehors il se dirigea vers le nord de la ville, il aurait tout le temps de visiter les quartiers sud et ouest ainsi que ceux du palais lors des prochains jours. Le jeune homme préféra la tranquillité du nord de la ville au vacarme croissant dont il savait faire preuve le sud dernièrement. Cela lui permit de réfléchir à ce qu’il allait bien pouvoir faire à partir de maintenant, par où il allait commencer son voyage en terre d’Ore et quels allaient être ses objectifs à présent. Il marcha ainsi, perdu dans ses pensées, se laissant guider par ses pas, jusqu’à ce que la nuit tombe définitivement, rencontrant ici et là bateaux, guerriers géants et autres dragons faits tout de bois qui attendaient patiemment leur heure de gloire lors du défilé ayant lieu le surlendemain. Lorsque les dernières lueurs du soleil s’éteignirent derrière l’horizon il se décida à rentrer à l’auberge, la journée avait été longue et il aspirait à un bon repos avant de se lancer dans les festivités qui animeraient la ville dès l’aube.
Le jeune homme observait les étoiles en marchant et remarqua qu’une des constellations de la voûte céleste semblait briller d’un éclat plus vif que d’habitude ce qui l’étonna car il ne se souvenait pas avoir remarqué la brillance de cette étoile auparavant. Même lors des nombreuses soirées passées avec son père à observer le ciel lorsqu’il était plus jeune. Cela fit remonter une foule de souvenirs et il se rappela de ce que lui avait dit un ami et qu’il avait décidé de mettre à l’épreuve en revenant en terre d’Ore : « Il ne sert à rien d’attendre que la chance vienne à toi, il faut parfois savoir la forcer.».


Chapitre Précédent *-* Sommaire *-* Chapitre Suivant

*

Récits d’Ore