Solus’ fingers curled in frustration as he watched the young man leave. The nerve of Harken was infuriating, to think that he could just turn up and immediately take control of the group that Solus had spent his life building up was unthinkable. He had been the leader of the Fire Pillar for so long, and yet he was expected to just give it up to the boy. And the worst part of it all was that he felt like he had no control over the situation.
The heart of the problem lay in the ideology of the Fire Pillar. The most valued trait in a Fire Pillar was their strength, as they saw it, and Niselt happened to be the most powerful among them. This introduced an awkward position because the young man had no intentions of being a leader, in fact he had concealed his strength when he had joined the Fire Pillar in the first place in order to avoid it. Now it seemed that he had backed someone else, which meant that the majority of the Fire Pillar would almost definitely follow his example.
This was an issue.
For now, though, Solus could only go along the flow. He followed Harken down the stairs, noticing that the young man had walked towards the loading bay of the warehouse where the Fire Pillar had set up for the night. Niselt was already there, chatting with some of the others idly, Igrein included. Eran was close by, her presence drawing the interest of some, yet both parties were reluctant to begin an interaction, so she had been left in silence. Auron was nowhere to be seen.
“Ah, Harken, I’ve been waiting for you,” Niselt grinned at the young man. Harken seemed to consider his options before turning to the member of the Fire Pillar. It seemed that he had decided to life his self-imposed vow of silence towards the man.
“What do you want, Niselt?” Harken asked, his expression unreadable. The sight cause the other to hesitate sightly, but only momentarily. Solus still wondered what it was exactly that Niselt had seen in him, but for a member of the Fire Pillar to recognise his strength, wherever it might be hidden, he couldn’t help but acknowledge it as well.
“Well, as you all know,” he began, turning to face the crowd in front of him, his natural affinity for showmanship starting to show itself. “I’ve served the Fire Pillar for as long as I have been in Danarog, fighting and caring for those who need it. However, what progress have we made?”
There was a deafening silence among the crowd as they glanced over to Solus, who watched Niselt impassively. He had known that Niselt was aiming for this for quite some time now, and he wasn’t surprised that the young man was looking to change things up. Frustrating was a more accurate word, possibly even insulted.
“The reason is because we are headstrong. I’ll admit it, I am one of the guiltiest, but we must all recognise that in order for our endeavours to succeed, we cannot maintain the weight of our responsibility on our own backs. We need help, from other Pillars, Branches. We need to become a fighting force like the old times which ruled this world without question, and yet different at the same time.”
“And you want me to lead them,” Harken finished for him. Niselt turned back to him with a smile.
“You don’t know your own powers, none of us have even seen someone like you before. Who better to lead a force like the one I’m suggesting than someone who is completely unique and unbiased in their decisions, not giving any group among us any more favour than another?”
“How about someone with actual experience in leadership?” Solus put forward. There were a few voices of agreement that floated around the warehouse, but a quick look from Niselt quietened them. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would want to put my trust into someone that I have barely even seen before, let alone follow into battle.”
“And you think that you can convince the Water Pillar to help out?” Niselt snapped, his usual cheerful demeanour gone as he glared at Solus in frustration. The large man suspected that half of it was for his stubbornness, the other half for interrupting his speech. “How well do you think that’s going to go down? I’m no seer, but I can definitely see you being impaled on a stalactite outside of their fortress.”
I’d bet you that I could do better than him,” Solus retorted, pointing over to Harken. He was not going to back down from this, he had been preparing for this fight ever since Harken had entered the young man’s vision. “I’m pretty sure that they would listen to someone who has had experience in a position of power before bowing to a child who spends his life being beaten by the militia of all people!”
“And there’s your problem,” Niselt crowed, looking around at the others, who waited for him to make his point. Solus could already see where the young Fire Pillar was going. “You talk of bowing, as if you’re going to rule over them.”
“Won’t I?” Solus growled evenly. “That’s the whole point of our endeavours, to restore the old times when the strongest were celebrated as the ruler, not some child who’s different. That was the entire goal of the Fire Pillar!”
“But that is where we need to be different from,” Niselt cried out. He turned back to face Solus as he ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t want kings, emperors, I don’t want another damn dictator. We’ve made that mistake; it was what led to the humans creating guns! We were too proud to admit that someone weaker than us might be smarter, and find some other way of defeating us.”
“We evolved, we’ve found ways around guns, to counter them,” Solus snapped. The Fire Pillars around them had begun to split themselves into sides, some moving to stand behind Solus, others to form another group with Niselt. Still others remained in the in the middle of the quickly forming ring, including Igrein. “If they create something else, we’ll find a way to combat that as well. We are better than them, our forefathers were the beings that shaped this world, why should we allow them to hold any of us down.”
“And yet look at us now,” Niselt said, his voice heavy with anger. His true emotions on the matter had begun to show. “Scurrying around under their boots, hoping that they won’t find us. Look around you, how are any of us above them? Our ‘forefathers’ left us, abandoned us when they recognised a threat even greater than themselves!”
None wanted to speak as the echoes from all of the shouting reverberated off of the metal walls into a quiet silence that was near deafening. The only small sound that could be heard was the panting of Solus and Niselt, their breaths coming short from the anticipation of a fight that neither of them wanted, but couldn’t help but feel like they were being steered towards.
“Are you both done?” Harken asked quietly. Niselt and Solus both looked over at him as if they had just realised that he was still there. Solus moved to step forward, but what almost felt like an intimidating presence made him halt, his pupils dilating as he fought the instinct that told him to stop, “Because if you are, then can you all leave?”
“What-,” Niselt began, but Harken raised a hand to stop him. It seemed as though he was done with listening, and now he wanted to say his piece as well.
“Look, if you want to do whatever Niselt is suggesting, then by all means stay, but if you don’t, then you can go,” he told the people surrounding him. “This is my warehouse, Elgen gave it to me, so if you don’t like what’s going on, then nobody’s stopping you from leaving, simple as that.”
Another pause filled the air, then a slight shuffling as a few of the Fire Pillar began to gather themselves to leave. As they left, a few of them threw apologetic looks over to Niselt, who returned their glances coldly. He was surprised that they would not follow the whims of someone stronger than them, but Solus knew that they had made the right decision. Soon after a couple more followed their lead, then Igrein himself stood up.
“I enjoyed our time together, brother, but I’m afraid my place is still with the Pillar, and Solus,” he told the young man before he turned his back as well. After the flow of departures slowed, Solus gave one final respectful nod to Niselt before leaving as well. He might have been frustrated with a different view, but they had still been friends for a very long time, and he would not stand in the way of the decisions that Niselt would make. Not even if he felt that it was a wrong one with every fibre of his body.
“That was a poor move,” Niselt sighed as he shook his head at Harken. He couldn’t hide the fact that he had been close to a lot of the Fire Pillar that had remained with Solus, and the pain of abandonment was visible on his face. It was a new feeling for him, and a humiliating one at that. “We need everyone we can get, leaving them behind hurts the cause a lot.”
“If they want to come back, we can let them, otherwise they would have just questioned every decision and denied every answer,” Harken replied. He yawned as he looked for, and found, a mat that looked like it had been left behind by one of the Fire Pillars. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable. “Speaking of answers, what are you thinking Niselt? Trying to put me in charge, you realise my whole thing is about staying out of the limelight.”
“I figured that you were the best option,” Niselt shrugged, looking over to the side where the other Fire Pillars that had remained were sitting quietly. Just like he was, they struggled to come to terms with the sudden division in their family, something they had not expected when they woke up. “I know there’s some part of you that you’ve got hidden away, and I don’t care what I have to do, I will drive it out into the open.” He had almost achieved it last night as well. Just a little more and he was sure that he would have been able to display Harken’s greatness to the world as well.
“That is not something for you to decide,” Harken replied, his voice low. Niselt flinched as he saw a faint pulse of violet energy from under the shadows of Harken’s coat. The Violet one had not yet forgiven him, and he knew that he had to be more careful around him for a while at least. “Do you think it was by accident that I spent my time alone?”
“I thought you were happy to find some friends.”
“I am, I’m thankful for meeting Auron, and for meeting Eran,” Harken replied evenly. He looked Niselt in the eye, and as the other stared down into the violet irises that glowed softly in the light, he almost felt himself falling in toward them as they pierced through his mind. “But you, you’re the reason that I tend to stay away from others unless I need to. You always think that you need to sneak around behind the scenes and try to make other people do what you want, but did you ever think to just ask me?”
“Well how about it then, would you mind showing us your power?” Niselt asked. He folded his arms as he issued the challenge, giving a small, confident smirk.
“That’s a bit unfair,” Niselt said reproachfully, a little disappointed that Harken hadn’t risen to the bait. He had figured that no one was that easy to provoke anyway, especially if they had the same mentality as the young man in front of him.
“Life is unfair, and so is going behind people’s backs,” Harken retorted. “Next time you want something from me, ask me. So, let’s go back to my answers. What do you want out of this?”
“The same thing you want,” the young Fire Pillar replied. “To bring equality to us all.”
“See, that’s your first mistake,” Harken told him, the words startling not only Eran, but the other Fire Pillars around them as well. Hearing the words from him, they began to grow a little restless. “I don’t care about equality, in fact, I rather enjoyed my life as it was, except for the occasional beating. No, what I want is to bring down that city floating above us.”
“That’s … pretty specific,” Niselt frowned. He looked around at the others, and gnawed on his lip while he tried to think of how to spin this. A thought came to his mind as he snapped his vision to Harken accusingly. “You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?”
“Maybe,” Harken shrugged as he stretched out on the mat luxuriously. “So, what’s the plan, because I wasn’t really intending on doing much today. I lost a lot of sleep last night after some unforeseen problems presented themselves.”
“You should have known the we would have searched for Eran.”
“I did, but that doesn’t mean that I was any more appreciative of it.”
“Besides, you were there, how could I not take the opportunity,” Niselt shrugged, unable to stop himself. No sooner had he said it, though, he realised what the implications of the comment meant, and looked over to see Harken’s eyes staring him down with their cold blankness. “Anyway, I was thinking that now you’re our leader and everything, you would need some new clothes.”
Harken instinctually pulled the rags around him tighter, particularly the ragged coat that he always wore. Niselt wasn’t sure why he always kept it. All the time that he had known the violet desolate, he always wore that coat. Sometimes he would pick up some new clothing from around the place when he got the opportunity, but the coat was in complete tatters.
“What if I don’t want them?” Harken asked. He sat up against the small raised section that overlooked the ramp of the loading area. His piercing eyes gazed once more into Niselt’s, and the Fire Pillar could feel himself not being so sure in his decision to update Harken’s image.
“Sorry, but this will be something that you will enjoy as well,” Niselt grinned, almost buzzing with excitement. And doubts he might have had were being brushed away by the anticipation of the surprise he had in store for Harken. “Don’t worry, I won’t force you to get any weapons, but I’ll definitely be taking you to a smith to get some armour. As much as I want equality, there will be fighting, and I want you protected.”
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Harken began, then looked over to see Auron emerge from another part of the warehouse, a clipboard in his hands. “Did you enjoy yourself?”
“I was doing my part to help out as well,” Auron called back. “Just doing a bit of inventory checking. You have some interesting items here that I might be able to purchase back for Elgen for a reasonable price. I do agree though, you will need some armour if you’re going to do this.”
“Well then it’s settled,” Niselt grinned. “You, Auron, Eran and I will head out to meet the smith, and the rest of the guys will hold down the fort, maybe do a bit of spring cleaning and organise the place as well.” After a few groans of annoyance, he looked at a few of them reproachfully. “C’mon guys, if you’re going to be here then you may as well help out as well.”
“I wasn’t really intending on heading out today,” Auron told him, a frown on his face at the rapid shift of Niselt’s concentration. “I think I might be a bit more help here.”
“Hey, relax a little, you need to get out more,” The Fire Pillar grinned. “I think if you get any paler you’ll turn into a Frost Branch.” Auron grumbled a little, indecision decorating his features as he looked around at the warehouse. Eventually he sighed and placed the clipboard to the side.
“Fine, but there had better be no trouble.”