Chapter 5 - Eren
Eren ran along the cobbled streets of King’s Pride. He dodged the horse carts of rushing merchants and cursing drunkards, squeezed himself through crowds that had formed around artisan performers and the thieves that emerged with such crowds like a predator following a herd of prey.
King’s Pride was a busy city; merchants from all over the kingdom traveled here over the land route carved into the mountains to sell their goods. Foreign merchants came via the vast underground river that connected the capital to the sea.
One voice rang above all the noise and it caught Eren’s attention. He stopped.
“Hear me now! Hear the Word of Light!”
An avid throng had gathered around a preacher. His eyes shone with rabid belief, his voice louder than any of the merchants. “The Church of Valor has received the Word of Light! We shall—nay, it is our holy duty—to spread the true Word of Light to the Eisen Kingdom and all other kingdoms! We must be relentless in our pursuit of the Light!”
The women in the crowd folded their hands together and held them to their chest. Men raised their fists and voiced their support. None of them were wealthy; many of the women wore simply grey dresses and the men wore simply tunics and leather work boots.
“Followers of the Light! Let us pray for victory!”
The crowd repeated the preacher’s words. They prayed as one voice, one mind, one army.
Eren avoided eye contact. He had never attended any of the meetings at the Church of Valor. In the past it was acceptable to ignore the Word of Light, but as of late, it seemed that the Church had gathered more and more influence in the city.
He rushed past the praying mass of people and headed towards the barracks. The barracks were located next to the merchants district; it stood next to proud trading guilds that had tall statues of oxes and lions to show off their prosperity to rivals and potential clients. But the barracks were a simple stone buildings that stood only two stories tall when the merchant guilds all had at least four floors. It was the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m here to see Officer Reinhard,” he said to the door guard and showed him the order.
The man nodded and gestured for Eren to enter. “You know where his office is?”
“He’s my commanding officer; his office is the last place where I’d want to be.”
The door guard and Eren exchanged grins. Judging by their uniforms, they could tell that they were of roughly the same rank. And a men of the same rank often shared the same grievances.
Eren went in, down the corridor, up the staircase and then the first door to the left.
“Come in!” a voice from behind the door said before Eren even knocked. He took a breath to settle himself, then pushed down the golden doorhandles.
Eren stepped in. Officer Reinhard was sitting at his desk—a fine desk; mahogany, smooth, sturdy, a craftsman’s masterwork.
“Galloway! It is good to see you!”
He stood, walked out from behind his desk and gave Eren a big hug. “It’s really good to see you.”
Eren returned the hug. Even though Officer Reinhard was his superior, they had known each other since their schooldays. Reinhard was simply smarter; he knew who to talk to and whom’s favor to win in order to climb the ladder faster.
“So,” Eren said, “what is this about a witch?”
Reinhard sat down again. “What I’m about to tell you is a secret of the highest order.”
Eren nodded. He already knew the secret: the King’s Pride army was keeping witches imprisoned somewhere in the city for an unknown purpose. The rumors were wild among the lower ranked knights and guards, and nothing was certain except for the fact that either the King or the Church had ordered the capture of live witches for an unknown reason.
And this is exactly what Reinhard told him. Witches in the cellars below.
Eren stayed silent, waiting for his friend and superior to continue. He still did not know why Reinhard had called him here.
“Last night,” Reinhard began and his voice grew quiet, “a witch almost escaped.”
“Quiet!” Reinhard hissed. “Yes...escaped.”
“I don’t know how she did it. We sealed off her magic with the handcuffs, but she somehow melted them off and used explosion magic to break out of her cell.”
Eren’s heart sank. A rogue witch. Here. In King’s Pride.
“But luckily, I managed to shoot her with a crossbow before she could make it anywhere.”
Eren nodded. He was starting to understand why he had been called here.
“Eren, if I remember right, you don’t like witches, do you?”
“You hate them—especially after what they did to your hometown.”
Bitter silence. Eren’s lips curled with fury at that memory.
“Eren, I want you to be the new commanding officer in charge of guarding the witches.”
“I want you to take charge of guarding the witches. You will be in command of thirty men I have assigned to the task. In return for this responsibility, you will receive a salary raise and— “
“I’m not interested in money.”
“Oh?” Reinhard raised a curious eyebrow. “Then...?”
“My brother Kolin just turned fifteen and...” Eren didn’t dare finish the sentence. He was conscious that he was treading into dangerous territory.
“I understand.” Reinhard nodded, his voice solemn. “You have my word, Eren. Take on this task and I will use my influence to keep Kolin away from the front lines.”
Eren let out a silent breath. Suddenly his shoulders felt lighter and gratitude rose in his throat. He wanted to hug his friend, but instead he clicked his heels and saluted.
Eren turned to leave.
“One more thing, just a little thing,” Reinhard said.
“Keep an eye on the witch with the green eyes and blonde hair.”
Reinhard pursed his lips and considered his words for a moment, as though he was unsure of the reason. “There is something odd about her—her magic.”
“How do you know?”
“I worked ten years as a witch hunter before I came to the capital. My instincts are telling me that.”
Eren nodded. “Any other advice from your witch hunting years?”
“Yes...” Reinhard frowned and locked eyes with Eren. “This is my warning to you: in my experience, even if her magic is locked away, a witch will use all sorts of games and sweet words to break out…she will try to control your heart. Be careful. Never forget that we are your true brothers—your brothers in arms.”
A/N: Another day, another chapter :)