City Under Siege
The realm of the Iron Lord was one of the oldest and proudest nations on the face of Argaia. She stood as a beacon of skill and progress as far back and any record of history could reach. Even before the time of the Red Rains, Rustwatch was an inspiration to all, simply by uttering her name in conversation. Since the birth of the chimera, Rustwatch evolved into a one of a kind entity that heralded a song to every corner of the globe of humanity’s will to endure, adapt and even thrive in the face of hardship. The towering metallic bones of the mighty city challenged the freedom of the sky and her mines cut deep everlasting battle scars into the face of the earth. Her people were possessed of a machine-like industriousness and stood as paragons of labor and a craftsman’s toil to every other known civilization. Rustwatch was, in every sense, a great city. And now, even with the support of the Rayward nation’s largest marching army, she was on the verge of being erased from existence.
Saria felt a tremble of mourning shoot up her back as she looked out from the bow of the merchant clipper. The sight was an all too familiar one that she hoped she would never have to see again. The broken masts shooting out of the waves and the splintered pieces of timber that drifted on the tides signaled an arrival in a watery cemetery of tall ships. As the clipper continued to sail through the early day mist, the silvery blanket of vapor was contumely pushed back by the boat’s prow only to reveal the carcasses of more and more ruined ships. While Saria knew that none of the vessels called the port of Lighthouse Bay their home, the sight of sailing craft claimed by the fathoms of the Bone Sea was no easy thing to witness.
“What are you doing above deck?” came the hauntingly enticing sound of Noah Redmoon’s voice. His words drifted on the ocean wind from the ship’s main deck, proceeding the sound of his black jackboots as they made the venerable sea craft’s wooden planks creak and groan with each step he took.
Saria turned from her seaward vigil next to the ship’s masterfully carved figurehead of a raven-haired maiden. “Rayward Man-O-War, that one was,” Saria wistfully whispered as she pointed at the sundered hull of a vessel bobbing in the waters to the clippers portside. Her delicate finger, clad in a lavishly knit white lace tea glove traced a sorrowful trail in the air as she pointed at the derelict wooden husk until it was lost to the mist once more in the clipper’s wake.
“You know your ships, I see,” Noah said as he placed a familiar hand on the small of Saria’s back.
“I was raised on the water, you know,” she responded with a failed smile.
Noah took a perch beside Saria at the clipper’s bow and looked at the ghostly remains of things that had not long ago been warships materializing from the ocean mist. “There are so many. I knew that Rayward had a vast navy but seeing it for myself shatters all of my previous expectations,” Noah said after several more parts belonging to sunken ships drifted by on the waves.
“Seeing what is left of it, you mean,” Saria said grimly. She fixed her shadowed eyes back on the assortment of wooden skeletons that continued to flow in on the oncoming water.
“I never knew you had such reverence for Rayward,” Noah stated. He dangled his feet over the side of the ship and looked at the broken pieces of timber as they were pushed into the depths by the advance of the Lighthouse Bay clipper.
“Not as such. I do not have any great love for the people of Rayward nor do I wish them ill. It is more that the weight of this war is starting to take a toll on me,” Saira said with an echoing emptiness. She expected Noah to come back with some glib remark or perhaps a candid vulnerable insight but the only sound the woman heard was the crash of waves breaking on the clippers bow. Saria leaned forward and caught a flash of Noah’s face. She saw a man who was bleeding profusely from his spirit and immediately regretted her words. “Master Redmoon, I am so sorry. I forget that you know better than most what this battle with the chimera means. I was carless and…” Saria was halted in her speech as Noah nimbly abandon his seat on the ships bow and brought himself within an eyelash’s length of her face.
“You need to stop apologizing for Moses and Ester. They are dead and it hurts me to no end that I have no more family in this world but I am not a fragile thing of glass. I can handle what happened to them. You need not tread lightly on my account,” Noah said with gentle command as his body lightly brushed against Saria’s rich peach ruffled gown.
Saria wanted to withdraw from Noah. He was so close that she could feel him flowing in her blood. His guarded sorrow threatened to drown her. Much of her being longed to be lost inside of Noah’s darkness. As a thing of the light, every aspect of Noah Redmoon was a tempting siren’s song that beckoned Saria to shadows. She knew the man was a danger to her but that fact was what sat at the core of her undeniable attraction towards him. Noah brought out something from inside of Saria that she did not know she possessed. It was so new a feeling that she did not even have a name for it.
Saria was starting to become suffocated by Noah’s presence. It was like he stole the air from her lungs with each breath that he took. She needed to breathe. Saria willed her companion to step back but Noah stood fast. She wanted nothing more than to banish Noah but at the same time she wished he would shatter all sense of priority and take her in his arms the way he had on the night of his brother and sister’s death. She wondered why Noah only stood there and let the silence between them mature. Time seemed to freeze as Saria began to slip into the dark wolf’s eyes of the man standing before her.
It would never be known how long Noah and Saria’s intimate moment lasted. The precious unspoken exchange was ended when the morning fog above the waves gave way to clear skies and open water. The devoted pair were jarred from their union as the clipper made a sharp adjustment in its course.
“What is going on?” Saria gasped.
“I should think the captain is attempting to avoid heading straight into that wretched thing,” Noah said as he nodded across the waves at the skyline of Rustwatch that had come into view. Below the shape of towers and smokestacks that stuck up above the daunting seal wall was the form of some enormous beast breaching out of the water along the city’s harbor.
“I imagine that we will make landfall far from the city. I hope you are not opposed to a little cross country travel,” Noah said with a return of his usual cavalier half-smile that slayed Saria so effortlessly.
“You and I alone, in the wilds of Rustwatch without a proper chaperone. My, I am sure that people will talk,” Saria said with a coy mocking wrist placed melodramatically upon her forehead.
“I need not think you should worry about the Iron Men. Their lot are not known for being the type to gossip,” Noah said, allowing his half smile to grow until it reached from ear to ear.
“And what if I wanted to give them something to talk about,” Saria said while forwardly taking Noah’s hand in both of hers.
“We shall, I am sure of that my Lady. We will no doubt be the talk of the Iron Lord’s city for ages to come,” responded Noah as he took his free hand and sweetly brushed Saria’s cheek.
Even through a leather riding glove, Noah touch was like a bolt of lightning cutting his name into Saria’s heart. She nearly left her feet from his affectionate gesture as her head floated and her senses spun like a whirlpool. “And what grand thing is it that you and I shall do to become so lauded in Rustwatch?” Saira managed to ask with enough poise to keep form sounding like a giddy little girl.
“You see that thing at their gates. We will kill it and send its lifeless body to the bottom of the Bone Sea,” Noah said with murderous fire alight in his feral eyes.
Saria felt her heart sink in her chest as Noah’s confession was not the admission of carnal desire that she thought their game had been leading towards. Saria was terrified by Noah’s thirst for vengeance. In that moment she realized his bloodlust was what made her want him more than she could ever say. As she thought of killing the mighty chimera that battered the wall of Rustwatch she felt her pulse quicken and her body burn with wanting. Saria knew now more than ever that though they were separated by light and darkness, she and Noah were the same.