Cleansing the Grounds
Waking up to the sunless day was the worst part of waking up today, Aimee acknowledge missing the sun more than ever. She quietly slipped out of bed and into her traveling clothes, trousers and a loose buttoned white shirt. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, wondering when the rims under her eyes would disappear. She glanced at the sky through her window, last night seemed like a distant dream that was unlikely to repeat itself tonight, however she knew she was only deluding herself into believing such fantasy. She decided to meet her father and brother, who were likely to be in the living room waiting for her.
She stepped in the living room; a mug of hot chocolate was waiting for her in the table. Joseph was sitting next to it and smiled kindly when their eyes met. His smile was so affectionate that it crushed Aimee’s heart. She didn’t want to see her father suffer from this misfortune. His entire life he was devoted to the Northern Lights and he was eager to pass on his love for flying to his children. She tried to return his smile with a watery one of her own. “Good morning father,” she whispered when she threw her arms around him; then took a seat beside him.
“How are you this morning? Ready for your second time in the Trade?”
He was so positive. Aimee nodded, “I hope it’s as exciting as the first time.”
“It will be,” Daniel said, “there will be more undesirable people than the first time you went. The Trade does not welcome people like Shkein into its ground, and the mayor will surely throw him out when he sees his people complain to him. There will surely be unrest among the merchants.”
“You’re so insufferably tragic,” Aimee complained.
“It will do you good to listen to what is going on in the world around you,” Daniel said, “instead of living forever trapped in the crystal cage of your childish mind. This is our reality, Aimee. What happened last night was not a one-time thing, from now on, that will happen every night until they destroy the balance of our Lights. After that, they will seek other lands, perhaps the Far Northern Skies if they’re desperate enough.” He crossed his arms on his chest and slouched on the couch, fuming.
Aimee was clutching the mug with fiery silence and indignation.
Joseph reached out for her hand, “Aimee, we’ve gone through worse. We’re still here, together, as the family we are. Nothing matters as long as we’re together. Now drink your chocolate, we’ll leave soon. It will do us good to examine the situation in the Trade Grounds with our own eyes instead of listening to the despairing accounts of the merchants from the Southern Market.”
Aimee nodded, draining the hot chocolate in her mouth. She welcomed the warmth that the chocolate offered her when days were sunless, like today.
“I see they let you keep your ship,” an aviator, in charge of issuing docking permits in the pier, exclaimed. “Did you bribe them Wilker?”
Joseph shook his head. “We didn’t sell our ship,” he said simply, “and we’re not interested in selling it.”
The aviator regarded Joseph with curious eyes; his eyes were screaming at Joseph and calling him a mad-man. “That was a bold decision Joseph,” he said, “I thought I’d never see a chaser again in my life and here you are, defying me. I am glad you decided to go against those murderers’ whims.” He said the last with a dark and sinister air.
“What do you mean?” Joseph asked. Daniel stopped loading the chests in the cart; they were only five of them. The rest were stored safely in the house lest they, or one of their neighbors, where in need of them. Aimee had secured their ship and was now climbing down the rope ladder, curious at what the old aviator will tell them.
“Everybody knows this piece of news,” the aviator continued grimly, his voice drawing them nearer and nearer as he dropped the volume to add effect to his report. “Our dear mayor is dead, killed with a dagger during the dead of night.” The Wilkers stopped breathing, shocked and perplexed. “I didn’t believe it either, until a coffin was brought out of his house. It was his corpse; I attended the open-casket funeral.”
“Why didn’t we know any of this?” Joseph inquired suspiciously. “News like this will surely spread like wildfire.”
“I wouldn’t blame you for your ignorance; after all, you live in the Northern Territories. Whatever happens to the Trade does not matter to you or your kin. However, there are rumors that the elites want to keep this quiet. Ever since Shkein moved to live in the Trade, there has been anarchy and brawls in the trading grounds. It is all chaos everywhere, not even the automata can deal with Shkein’s armed men when they’re harassing innocent merchants.” The aviator closed his eyes and shook his head. “The Council of the Trade is getting together to elect a new mayor, the votes are just among them, and nobody else. Everybody is outraged at that; even old Lynder has come out of his hole to protest against the corruption.”