Chapter XIV

Boot in the Door

Five days had passed since their arrival in Rhaz before Khimi told Ennui the news. She would be spending weeks traveling across the Desert Cities to ensure Aleyna’s safety. Though she feels scorned not being told where Lumi and Khimi are running off to, she is pleased that Khimi is finally taking a moment to himself. In addition, Khimi insists that if things go well in Sidi that he would consider taking Mamir on to help run the Cerulean Star. Mamir, her old friend, had always been dependable. Dependable…most of the time. She had begun to feel that she had accrued a debt of sorts after everything they had been through in recent years. Mamir, for whatever reason, had always done his best to look after her.

EEnnui had spent the past three days meticulously preparing for her journey. Scouring the markets for essential supplies, stocking up on waterskins and dried meats and vegetables. Convincing Mamir to join them had been no easy feat. But as soon as Ennui mentioned the possibility of him operating the Rhaz Estate, his eyes lit up with thoughts of riches and he eagerly agreed to come along.

And now, here they are, miles outside of Rhaz, hurtling through the vast desert landscape on a camel-drawn wagon under the cool night sky. They bounce along, while Ennui rubs at her thigh, still sore from the wound that Lumi had managed to heal with Rashid’s assistance. But the memory of the pain caused by the sharp bolt piercing through her flesh lingers still.

“Bum leg now, is it?” Mamir asks and pulls on the reins between his cheerful whistles.

Ennui scoffs, “Nothing of the sort,” she replies and sucks her teeth, the phantom pain lingering in her thigh.

“Right, right,” Mamir responds, cocking his brow. “Doesn’t seem like nothing to me,” he says before he begins to whistle again.

Ennui remains silent, looking out into the distance over the dunes. The two camels pulling the wagon grunt with the reins slapping against their sides. The canvas covering the wagon flaps in the cold night air. She runs her index finger along the length of her horn, something she does unwillingly when deep in contemplation. She gives Mamir a queer smirk and looks at him from the corner of her eyes.

“What is it?” Mamir asks and gives her a quirky grin. “Just spit it out.”

Ennui growls, “Fine,” she begins. “It’s something that happened during our trip.”

Mamir whistles, “Must have really been something if it got you worked up…”

Ennui crosses her legs, leaning back against the wooden board behind her. “I had taken a bolt in the thigh. Rashid managed to close the wound and staunch the bleedin–”

“Isn’t the first time you took a hit,” Mamir interrupts. “Remember that time whe–”

“That…isn’t it,” Ennui sighs, interrupting him. “We knew that our ship was going to be overrun. So we came up with a plan…to reveal Khimi’s identity and submit to the pirates. We agreed to let Khimi be ransomed.”

Mamir raises an eyebrow. “This doesn’t sound very like you. Giving up like that.”

“I was in pain. Losing consciousness,” Ennui replies. “But that’s just it. We didn’t have to give up our problem…vanished.

Mamir smiles, “Well…now you really need to tell me what happened,” he says, his curiosity piqued. He tightens the linen scarf around his neck. “What do you mean by vanished?”

“Have you met the aslan?” Ennui asks, her fingers steepled thoughtfully. “I don’t know quite how to phrase this,” she says, pursing her lips.

“Say what?” Mamir asks.

Ennui growls, grabbing her horns in frustration. “Mamir, that stupid lion…he’s chosen by the Gods.”

Oh, like an acoly–”

NO! Not like a bloody acolyte!” Ennui snaps. “Like…one of those.”

Chosen?” Mamir’s eyes grow wide, “Like what? A chosen? Like a saint?”

“Yeah, just like that.”

“Bloody hells,” Mamir says, wiping his brow. “Bloody fuckin’ hells.”

The cool desert wind blows against their faces while they both maintain their silence. They raise their scarves over the wind burned cheeks, unwilling to carry on the conversation any longer. Ennui leans back, closing her eyes until Mamir breaks the quiet.

“Well…what’d he do, the aslan?”

“He blew them up.”

“Blew them up?” Mamir asks, his voice muffled by the dark-colored scarf. “What’d ya mean? I’ve never seen Hollgrehenn do anything of the sort…”

Ennui scoffs, “Just like that. They vanished into thin air. There was a sound of thunder and…suddenly a bright light through the window. We heard the lion shout on the deck…then everything was silent. The crew said there was a massive circle in the sky and the aslan’s eyes were glowing red. Golden marks were all over his body. They said it looked like ivy.”

Laurels…” Mamir mumbles, “It was laurels.”

Ennui tosses Mamir a curious look, “Well…yes, one mentioned golden laurels. How would you know that?”

Mamir glances back, “There was a time I wanted to be an acolyte. In my youngest years, back in Winterholt. I studied under the Saint of Creation. I-I quickly discovered it wasn’t a life for me…but I remembered all the talk of the different saints. It was a fascinating subject…the features each one bears in life. Many of them are larger than life even.”

“And the aslan? What saint would he be?” Ennui asks, trying to hide her intrigue.

Mamir keeps his focus on the camels descending into the sandy valley. “Based on what you described…Saint of Flames. It is the title bestowed to the speaker of the Gods of Light and Fire,” he begins and pauses a moment, biting his thumb.

“What is it? What aren’t you saying?”

Mamir sighs, “That title…the Saint of Flames. There hasn’t been one in ages.”

Ennui glances at Mamir, “Why?”

“Well, there are rumors about that…but either way, perhaps Khimi shouldn’t get involved,” He scoffs. “Perhaps it’s best if you don’t get involved…”

“Mamir, come now. Tell me what you know?” Ennui pleads, her interest piqued. “It’s too late for Khimi not become involved anyway. It seems his cock does most of the thinking around the little lion.”

Mamir leans back against the wooden wall of the wagon, “There were speculations. Rumors. The clerics who traveled back to the Shaper’s Forge[1] spoke of the Sun Temple. There were suspicions about their true nature.”

“Their true nature? What do you mean? Are they cultists or something?” Ennui asks, pressing him for more.

“Nothing of the sort. The only thing they worship is money…it was suspected that beneath all their haughty behavior and false zeal, their love of the Gods was long gone. To accompany their suspicions were the rumors that the Sun Temple had slain other candidates previously.”

Ennui whistles, “Alright, that does catch my interest. So the kindly priests of Loria are actually just backstabbing hypocrites?”

Ennui,” Mamir says, turning towards her. “None of this is ever proven, but it is known the other servants of the Gods avoid sun priests for a reason.”

“Either way,” Ennui shrugs. “The aslan just needs to avoid the temple and he’ll survive, right?”

Mamir shrugs, “Unless they send someone to seek out the next voice of the Gods,” he says brusquely. “And I doubt whatever happened will go unnoticed by the temple…”

“I don’t think I can protect the aslan from an entire order of the Faith,” Ennui groans. “I only signed up to protect Khimi…which should in all respects be fairly easy.”

Mamir laughs, “Now you’re expected to protect his pet as well?”

“Pet?” Ennui asks mockingly. “Right, I would have said that too…unt–until recently.”

“Something else happened?”

“I’ve never seen Khimi this way with anyone, he’s like…a love sick boy.”

Mamir laughs again, “Well, good for them. Everyone deserves to find happiness.”

Ennui cracks her back against the low wooden back of the wagon. “Back to business. After we check up on Khimi’s mother, you’re a boot in the door to running the Rhazian side of the Cerulean Star. Does this…settle up our debts?”

“Certainly,” Mamir chokes in response. “But, you didn’t have to do this.”

“I don’t like debts hanging over my head,” Ennui replies and places her hand on the hilt of her dagger for comfort. “Why’d you ever come to the Desert Cities anyway?”

Mamir remains silent. He looks up at the sky, illuminated by the thousands of stars. The sisters[2] are both high in the sky, their glow creating a beautiful and serene landscape across the desert dunes. He slaps the reins, spurring the camels forward. Ennui waits for his response, asking her dwarven friend the question once more.


“After I left the temple in Winterholt, I went from city to city. Winterholt to Middenbourg, Middenbourg to Silz, Silz to Wiltz, and from Wiltz…well I finally decided I needed a change in my life.”

“I never pegged you for the religious sort,” Ennui mutters, almost laughing at the thought. “And so…you came to the desert.”

“Been here for forty years now,” Mamir replies quietly.

Ennui snorts, “I guess the desert is where our types go.”

“Our types?” Mamir asks, raising a brow. “You mean outcasts?”

“I suppose if you want to use that term. Outliers…people who don’t belong,” Ennui murmurs. “Anyway… Mamir, I trust you’ll keep your mouth shut about Lumi?”

Mamir sighs, “I have no intention of speaking of this again,” he snips. “It’s not just the Lorians you’d need to watch out for, but also the other orders of the Faith as well. They’re wary of anyone calling themselves saint or chosen.”

Ennui closes her eyes, “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t they support the other Faiths?”

“Sometimes they do. Other times, there is a feeling of hatred or concern when a new saint appears. It’s a curious thing, only a saint may speak with the Gods. Because of this, it becomes difficult to verify their status. Over time, certain Faiths have determined signs or symbols that a saint can use to prove their position, but…sometimes these things can be falsified or replicated easily by simple magicks. For instance, if Lumi summoned sigils…that would be a sign.”

Hells,” Ennui mutters to herself. “It seems…there is more complexity to it than it would seem.”

Mamir nods, “Many years ago, there was a war that occurred, known as the War of the Saints…many false saints arose and challenged those presiding in their positions. The issue was eventually settled, but the orders lost many of its most loyal believers…and the Faith grew much weaker across Talmus.”

“Is there a chance…Lumi could be a false saint?” Ennui questions, almost wishing it to be true.

“Unlikely,” Mamir replies swiftly. “From what you described, and you said the crew witnessed…he’s likely the real deal. Only the power of the Gods or maybe an otherworldly power could do something of that magnitude.”

Ennui sighs loudly, slumping in her seat. “Khimi really knows how to pick ’em,” she mutters, crossing her arms, sulking.

“Well, so do you.”

“W-What are you talking about?” Ennui asks, shooting up in her seat.

Mamir snickers into his scarf, “Every whore you ever pick…either she’s a thief, a con, or leaves you unsatisfied.”

“Or leaves you bound and gagged.”

Mamir growls beneath his scarf, shooting Ennui a fiery glare. “You’re only proving my point.”

Ennui exhales sharply, her tail slapping against the wooden seat. “Point taken.”

[1] The temple, which is dedicated to the Gods of Creation.

[2] A nickname given to the twin moons of Talmus.