Olivia and Oliver Part 2
Oliver gently closed the tome he had been poring over for the last half hour. The dusty book of ancient poetry looked promising when he found it in a forgotten corner of the library, but it shed little light on his current academic interest. He was hoping that poetry from the Graccus Dynasty would shed some light on the strange occurrences popping up all over the countryside. Surely if anyone in ancient times claimed to hear a disembodied voice and was suddenly granted supernatural powers it would have inspired some poetry.
Oliver glanced out the window and silently chided himself. He had stayed too late again and his mother would be furious. He gathered up the books spread out around him and headed deeper into the library to return his finds before heading home. Suddenly a sharp whisper attracted his attention from a dark corner behind some shelving.
"Who is it?" Oliver whispered.
"Olivia," came the reply. "We have to leave now! We are in danger here."
"What are you talking about?" questioned Oliver. He slipped behind the shelving and cautiously peered into the darkness. There was his sister Olivia crouching in the shadows. Her hair was disheveled, her clothing was caked in layers of dirt and she clutched their father's old sword to her body in an ironclad grip. "What has happened sister?"
Olivia's eyes were wide and her lips were quivering. "Soldiers came looking for us. Mother and Mirabelle..." Olivia's voice cut off. She took a deep breath, "We need to flee the city. The soldiers...they burned our house down and they will be searching for us."
Oliver made no reply. He stood in a daze unable to comprehend what he was hearing. It was only when Olivia began pulling him deeper into the library that he realized she was still speaking.
"I had to sneak in through a back window to get to you," she said. "There are soldiers patrolling the streets, but I think we can make our way through the alleys until we get near the gate."
Oliver allowed himself to be led to the rear of the library where Olivia had left a window open. He noticed she had broken the window frame to get through and he was amazed he hadn't heard anything. Olivia took Oliver's hand and together they silently dropped into the alley behind the library.
Falmund was the largest city in all of Telios rivaled only by Vepo in Koros. The entire kingdom took its name from the city that birthed it. What began as a modestly sized settlement surrounded by fertile fields had blossomed into a prosperous trading hub and then a center of economic and military might. Falmund's power was perhaps best personified by the imposing castle that dominated the skyline like a sword thrust into the ground. Great mansions which housed Falmund's elite citizenry surrounded the castle occupying prime real estate within the city's inner walls. Just outside the inner walls various civic buildings and homes for the wealthy encircled the entire castle and were in turn encircled by the imposing outer wall of the city proper. Beyond the outer walls was a maze of markets and slums that stretched for nearly two miles in all directions. Once they made it past the outer wall Olivia knew it would be easy to avoid the soldiers in the sheer chaos of the slums.
Oliver followed Olivia closely through the maze of alleys. At every intersection, they paused to make sure no one could see them from the main avenue. Two teenagers caught slinking through darkened alleys would certainly bring unwanted attention. After several tense blocks, they came within view of the massive outer wall. The four main gates leading in and out of the city were closed for the evening, but a light flow of foot traffic was allowed to pass through smaller doorways cut through the wall. However, these doors were flanked by guards and would be more carefully watched at night.
"How did you get in?" Oliver asked.
"I broke one of the sewer grates in the slums and followed the sewer in. We should be able to follow it back out, but getting to the entrance will be tricky," replied Olivia.
"Why's that?" asked Oliver.
"Because it's directly behind a guard house," she answered.
Oliver gave Olivia a quizzical look.
"I didn't know that's where it would lead!" Olivia exclaimed. "I didn't exactly have time to formulate a plan."
"No no! I'm not blaming you," Oliver hastily replied. "I'm truly thankful, and more than a little impressed."
Olivia motioned for Oliver to stay back while she peeked out into the street. Directly across the road was the guardhouse. There were two guards chatting back and forth. Fortunately, their attention was focused out toward the slums. They were obviously more concerned with people coming in than going out. Still, Olivia and Oliver would have to wait until someone tried to enter the city and distracted the guards before they could cross the street and slip behind the guardhouse. Fortunately, they only had to wait about five minutes before some poor soul from the slums approached the door looking to enter.
"Well, well what do we have here Marco?" barked one of the guards, thrusting his finger into the peasant's chest.
"Well Clive, I believe that's what's called a gutter rat," answered Marco, shoving the man backward.
"Please sirs, I just want to visit my sister in town."
"Ah! A talking gutter rat! Truly a miraculous sight," jeered Clive. "But even a talking rat is still a rat. What makes you think you have the right to associate with good honest folk, eh rat?"
Olivia witnessed the guards harassing the poor man and motioned for Oliver to join her near the street. When the guards managed to shove the man to the ground Olivia darted across the street followed closely by Oliver. Unfortunately, one of the guards glanced up from his cruel mockery just in time to catch sight of Oliver disappearing behind the guard house.
"Eh Clive! The city's infested with vermin!" shouted Marco. "Two of 'em just scurried around the house."
"Well let's get after them!" roared Clive, breaking into a run.
Olivia reached the entrance to the sewer which was little more than a hole in the ground. She pushed Oliver through the hole and dropped down after him just as the guards rounded the corner.
"Well, looks like the little rats found a hole to hide in," taunted Marco. "We'll just have to come down there and rid the city of this infestation."
Olivia urged Oliver forward. She estimated the broken grate was still another 300 yards ahead.
"Keep running, Oliver!" pleaded Olivia. "I'll try to stop them." Olivia turned to where the guards had just dropped down into the sewer and held her father's blade before her.
"Ooh, the little rat has teeth," purred Clive, his voice echoing off the narrow walls.
Oliver couldn't run anymore. He turned to watch in horror as the two hulking men slowly lumbered towards Olivia. He felt helpless. Blindly, Oliver reached down into the filth below him searching for anything he could use to defend his sister. His finger brushed against a small stone which he pulled out of the muck ready to throw at the guards.
Oliver heard a voice and time seemed to stand still. He could see the two guards frozen with malice etched on their faces. He could feel the fear emanating from his sister, yet he saw the bravery and determination in her eyes as she held their father's sword before her. Most of all Oliver felt an overwhelming sense of peace as the voice continued speaking to him. Oliver closed his eyes...
Olivia met the eyes of the guards. She knew she was about to die, but she hoped that Oliver at least could escape. She risked a glance behind her and cried in dismay. Oliver was just standing in the middle of the sewer with his eyes closed. "Oliver what are you doing!?" she screamed, "Run!"
All of a sudden a wave of inky blackness erupted from Oliver blanketing the sewer in complete and utter darkness. Olivia could see absolutely nothing, and immediately felt a strong sense of vertigo. A moment later the world was restored to her in vivid color. Compared to the brief darkness the dim sewer seemed as bright as day. Olivia regained her composure and turned to face the guards, but they were cursing and rolling in the sewage clutching their eyes.
"Olivia, let's go. They won't bother us anymore." Olivia turned back towards her brother who was standing calmly with his hand extended to her. She placed her hand in Oliver's and allowed him to lead her out of the sewer.
They entered the maze of buildings and streets that composed the slums and got lost among the crowd. Olivia observed Oliver out of the corner of her eye. He remained silent, yet he seemed at peace. Olivia marveled at him. Something in him had changed somehow.
"Oliver, what was that back there? What happened?" asked Olivia.
Oliver remained silent but appeared to be pondering the question.
"I don't know," he finally replied. "It was terrible... But it was also good."
Olivia considered his answer. They had come face to face with something that was much bigger than either of them. It was like a veil had been pulled back and she got a glimpse of some bigger truth in the universe. It was unnerving to suddenly question everything she thought she knew. However, she took some comfort in Oliver's calm, steady presence. Whatever happened to him had given him peace and a sense of purpose, and so she was content to follow him. Perhaps one day she would know the truth herself.