Susanda was on the verge of arguing with Tracede but Caranne raised a hand to silence them both so she could speak, “the pair of you are speaking too quickly and are obviously privy to more knowledge than myself. Firstly, what blade and what etchings are you referring to? Secondly, the chemists are already testing everything that came out of the arena with you on my orders, and finally, Aeron is…?”
A short paused followed her question and Tracede looked at her, mystified, “the mortal’s name is Aeron. You didn’t ask what his name was, especially considering his victory?”
Caranne was speechless at first but regained her composure in moments, and countering added, “I did not because he was unconscious when he reached the healers. You were also incapacitated by your own injuries and I was more concerned about both your survival than discovering the mortal’s name.”
“’Aeron’, dear lady, ‘the mortal’ is named Aeron,” Tracede reminded her, “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind you or any of us, using his name. Actually, by now the entire Isle would be using his name because of what happened.” During the thoughtful silence that followed, he thought about what seemed an odd action for Caranne, her referring to Aeron as only a mortal. He then realized her behavour wasn’t all that out of place anymore, for he has been noticing Caranne becoming more detached from this world, as though she wasn’t here anymore.
When Tracede had first arrived at the Coliseum, he had noticed that Caranne walked beyond the walls among the mortals on a daily basis. She spoke to them, she listened to them, and more importantly, she enjoyed their company and understood them for what they were. She understood their mortality and their hope and excitement in being able to just catch a glance of her, let alone be honoured to have words with her as though they were equals. He could not pinpoint the day or even the week that Caranne ceased to walk the roads that labyrinthed throughout the Floating Isle, but in time she never left the Coliseum walls. The Coliseum was no longer her home, it somehow became her prison. The degree to which she was now detached became obviously evident and was now beyond any hope of disguising.
Maybe this will be good for her. Maybe Aeron can help her reconnect with the world again, and maybe then she’ll…
Tracede swallowed the remaining food that was on his platter, “as for your other question, the blade is over there. Nothing seemed overly strange about it during the fight or at least I didn’t notice anything. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly in the position to notice anything beyond protecting myself and being on the offensive when allowed. As for the man, Aeron was very skilled and had an excellent technique with the blade he used that simply came from hard work and practice. Unless you’d like to ask something more specific, I’m not sure what else to tell you two lovely ladies.”
Caranne walked to where the ancient sword was set and examined it in her hands, “neither of you were able to read the etchings?” The other pair in the room shook their heads, both only knew that the markings where pristine in condition and of no language they had ever seen. “And if I remember correctly, no outside weapons are allowed to enter the Coliseum and those provided are checked daily, yet this ancient piece was among them. Perhaps there is someone else better suited to answering questions about this sword’s previous location, and I have a good mind as to whom. However, that will need to wait until later. Tracede is there anything else you need to let me know before I check on… Aeron?”
Tracede paused again, a somewhat thoughtful look growing on his face because he was considering the words he had spoken to Aeron as they leaned on the other while leaving the arena. Caranne became impatient, “Tracede please, if there is something tell me now. I need to speak with quite a few people today and I need to do so before nightfall.”
“I told him he was the mortals hope, that he couldn’t waiver in strength as we dragged ourselves out of the arena. It’s important, if he’s awake when you see him, that you ask if he remembers what I said to him. He walked in to that arena with honour and with unselfish motives and we need to make sure he still thinks that way.” Tracede’s breath had become laboured in growing anxiety over Aeron’s potential state of mind now that he was victorious in his first pursuit. He had never spoken aloud about his own hopes and concerns for the mortals that they fought and watched as spectators. He was unsure if even Susanda was prepared for a potential life beyond the Coliseum in a world where mortals could live without the watchful eye of the gods.
“I do not think I am entirely sure I understand why you would say something like that to him, but alright. Both of you were exhausted and suffering from blood loss and pain… perhaps when you are of a sounder mind, you can explain to Susanda and myself what you meant, if it still means anything to you by that point.” Caranne said reassuringly if only a little skeptically due to Tracede’s condition and his usual flare for the emotionally dramatic. She moved to leave the room, “I will come check on you later, but please send for me sooner if there is anything you need or remember further.”
Tracede and Susanda shared a look after Caranne left, knowing her last response to them was to be expected. They had both noticed the slow downward progression of Caranne’s grasp on the mortal realm, and as a result she had become less and less understanding of their plight. Spending less time among them devoided her of compassion and accepting of their mortality. What Tracede had told her he said to Aeron, she could not even begin to understand why he would need that sort of encouragement from an opponent whom he had just defeated. Caranne saw mortals as desire driven for wants that consisted of material wealth and the right to boast and not for honour or prestige. They were slowly becoming a breed of animal that thought no more in to the future than beyond their next immediate satisfaction.
Tracede silently kept the hope that Aeron may change that view for the better and reunite Caranne with how the world was becoming. The gods were a fading people among the explosion of mortal settlements that where becoming villages, that were becoming cities, becoming landmarks. Even the Floating Isle was becoming less and less a location of exotic uniqueness as the mortals created their own monuments of grandeur. They craved the need to appear just as powerful as the gods and just as capable of being their own masters. Their negative desires, their selfish distain for the lives of those they trampled and used for their own advancement only caused Caranne to further doubt their ability to behave rationally towards what they should be striving for. Aeron strove to the same degree as these other mortals but he did it for the right reasons and through a means that would only burden himself.
“What you are expecting of her is improbable, I hope you realize that. The rest of us have already, Tracede,” Susanda said quietly but with a matter of fact tone.
“Improbable but not impossible. Until that woman is too far gone and becomes impossible, I’m going to keep on trying.”
A foggy haze had begun to cover the grounds, the sky that had been clear darkened with the threat of rain and thunder. The weather seemed to reflect the disbelief of the earlier crowd as they shared what they had witnessed within the Coliseum. It was impossible, a mortal had never defeated a god before; they had never heard of such a thing ever happening. They were unsure what to think of this development and that such a thing could happen, especially in their own lifetime. What did this mean for them? What could this mean for them? If the gods were no longer invincible, who would protect them from the things they could not protect themselves from? Who could they turn to, to rely on, if not the gods? If one mortal could defeat a god, could another accomplish the same?
Perhaps the most debated question that had spread through the streets like wildlife was why the mortal did not kill the god. It was a fight to the death, after all. They had both been injured in the last blow and maybe Aeron didn’t have the strength to finish Tracede. What other reason could Aeron have to leave the god alive to heal and return to the Coliseum arena to take more lives? Whose side was this ‘hero’ on? This Mortal Champion may have won but how did he do it? Did he cheat or bribe the god into falling to his sword? Who were they supposed to have faith in now that a god had bled and a mortal was victorious in the Coliseum?
Aeron’s victory had tipped the balance of the Floating Isle and the citizens sought answers. The notice had been formally given at the time of Aeron and Tracede’s departure from the arena grounds that Aeron had collapsed in to unconsciousness and had remained so until the evening. The answers that they and Caranne sought would be gotten once he awoke and was deemed fit enough to discuss what had occurred during the battle. The uncertainty of what may come from Aeron’s success shook even the most confident, especially if everything changed or worse, if nothing did. Would change of any sort be beneficial at this point? The mortals seemed to be having a difficult life already without needing to rely further on themselves where they already relied on the gods.
Caranne had walked half the length of the Coliseum to where the unconscious victor was placed to recover. She had taken her time in doing so in order to consider what Tracede had said to her. It was a simple enough statement he had said, but she was aware of the connotations of what it would mean if she informed the mortal of his words. She knew what the others thought of her attitude towards the mortals and their incapability to care for their own wellbeing. They were wrong though, about having absolutely no faith left in them, it was because she did that she no longer spent her time among them beyond the walls of the Coliseum. If the mortals felt her constant presence in the streets, in their homes, there would be no means to urge them to rely on themselves. Yes, they relied on the Coliseum to run their small economy on the Floating Isle and gave them dreams of fame through the battles, but they chose what to do with the attention.
Caranne believed her absence was working quite well because although she missed seeing those kind citizens, it caused the lazy and the incompetent to push themselves in to making a living. Before, simply hearing that a god walked among mortals brought many from hundreds of kilometers away to spend their time and money on the Floating Isle. She inadvertently brought easy money to her mortals, causing them to lower their standards and coast on the income they knew would come willingly. So she stopped her walks through the marketplace, she ceased accepting dinner invitations, and she refused to attend festivals that were held for her and the gods. She created a dark period for them and many did chose to leave the Isle, many of the ones remaining being the persistent and hard working. They created lives that they could call their own and be proud of and she was happy for them. That happiness did not prevent her missing them though.
Beyond the door she stood in front of laid a mortal that could solidify the mortals hope and faith in their own abilities. However, if Tracede had been wrong and this young man had been changed by his first victory, then anything beyond that door would be tainted.