The gate of Albenmarth appeared before them around noon. The sun shone between the clouds with a wrath for being held back for the past months by the clouds. The gates of Albenmarth were made of great pine trees presumably from the valley itself. The outside of the gates were dotted with small broken structures where no one lived.
Some enterprising soul had built in the hope of making it into an inn. but the fact that the visitors to Albenmarth were bound only during summer and spring made it a poor business venture. Bad economy along with the cold climate forced his establishment shut and let it rot away.
As they approached the gates Yohan noticed that the gates were laid out open and two guards stood on either side of the entrance. Yohan knew the two Allu and Parji. Constant visits to the village had made him familiar with the guards.
” Ha I won”, shouted Allu as they saw Yohan and the warden coming.
“Good to see you back Rijiju,” said Parji without acknowledging Allu’s shouting.” the dean is wait….”
” Ha don’t act as if I am not here” interjected Allu as he walked towards Parji and punched him on the shoulders friendly. He turned around to Rijiju and said with a wide smile on his face” Good to see you back Rijiju but I can swear that of the two of us I am the happiest one to see you “
On hearing, this Rijiju raised his eyebrow in confusion. After a few seconds of not seeing any more remarks coming from them, Rijiju said while chuckling.” The last time I heard that was from a whore in the city of Setheri “
Parji let out a loud laugh at that. Allu wrinkled his nose in annoyance but didn’t retort to Rijiju’s tease, he looked at Parji and snorted.
” Haha nothing like that warden …. we just had a friendly bet. I won the bet. I am thankful that you were able to drag that runt up here ” he said looking at Yohan. ” Looking forward to seeing your supposed freedom were you boy”, he cuffed Yohan in the head and continued “let me tell you one thing kid. It’s death out there. You are lucky you were taken in by the Order. ”
” So did others reach?”, Rijiju asked frowning at Allu.
” Yeah, they got here by dusk. Gordun wasn’t happy. ” Allu said oblivious to the expression on Rijiju’s face.
” He won’t be happy anytime soon”, replied Rijiju.
Yohan didn’t reply and continued to stare at the ground. Well, at least, someone did bet on me. His mouth twitched at the corner when he heard about the warden. But smiling now won’t do him any good. He tried to make his face a blank mask as hard as he could.
” You should have shown up early. We had visitors “, said Parji.
“You saw them. They smelled worse than a shithole and I know one when I smell it, I had climbed down ones”, Allu said but stopped talking suddenly and then sniffed the air. “Ugh, did you piss yourself, boy?”
Yohan showed them his teeth but kept silent. The guard snorted. ” The dean will have to smoke his office today “.
” Let them in Allu, they must be hungry “, said Parji. Allu nodded.
” Ah my bad warden, I forgot. It’s noon already and it must have been a hard climb. Please enter. Thank you for your hard work warden ”
He stepped to the side for Rijiju and Yohan to enter. Yohan could hear them arguing behind him as they walked through the gate. The walls protecting the sanctuary are wide and the guardhouses built inside the walls on either side of the gate gave the illusion of wall being wider than it actually was and gave the impression of the one entering the sanctuary by walking through a huge tunnel.
The light showed at the other end and within seconds, they were passing the iron-barred windows of the guard house on either side of the path.Yohan could see the guards playing board games through the windows. Some noticed them pass while others were far into the game to even notice.
The guards of Albenmarth are all erstwhile students that frowned upon education when they were novices and acolytes even after the number of punishments that are administered to one as part of the process.
The numbers are low compared to the other occupations that acolytes in the order graduate to. But there are sufficient of them to act as guards for the many places the order has.
As they approached the exit of the tunnel, Yohan could see the horizon of the largest building in the sanctuary, the great library that was seventeen floors high. It looked like a featureless grey square block, larger than any other building in the sanctuary, each floor added to it during different centuries of the order’s life.
As they stepped out of the tunnel into the sanctuary, the temperature began to change from cold to warm, one of the many reasons that enabled the order to live in the icy mountain was the distinct change in the temperature inside the sanctuary as compared to the air outside the walls. Yohan suspected the sanctuary must be sitting over a volcano. One of the other reasons he would like to be somewhere else. It always ticked in his mind of the potential danger on which he is sitting
The tunnel opened to a huge courtyard surrounded by buildings with the tiled roofs on all three sides. The floor of the courtyard was tiled with huge rectangular cut stones except in some places near the borders of the courtyard were tiles were pried out for the trees to grow in.
The hall is always busy in the morning but then again they are always busy. There were chores to be done, no jobs ever seem to finish even with a large number of acolytes and novices in the sanctuary. Yohan suspected the Order kept them all busy to have any thoughts of running away to themselves and not able them to plan it to fruition
He looked at the library at the distance. There were many windows dotting the walls throughout the floors of the library, but it had only two doors to the large grey block. One to enter the library and one at the other end which acted as an entrance to the sanctum grove which lay at the heart of the sanctuary. Though truthfully Yohan had never given it any bother before the Irkians had spoke to him.
The Albenmarth halls could be called a small town. The halls consist of about seventeen main buildings and other minor ones that bore little resemblance to each other. Each had been built in different times of the century and, therefore, had different architectural style.
The corridor that opened from the gate was surrounded by guest houses, stables, guard houses and the one office building all of them two or three storey’s high in the clockwise direction.
The meditation halls that could be reached by walking to the right of the corridor was a one-storied building and had a circular shape to it. The building acted as a central hub to the four wings radiating in a different direction to the four buildings.One to the novices, the second to the acolytes, third to the teachers and fourth to the deans of different department and chancellor’s wing.
The building had a tiled roof and was built with wood, the whole thing- the walls, the floors, etc. It also happened to be one of the oldest buildings after the grand library. The inside of the hall was decorated with richly drawn and embroidered rugs keeping the insides warm. The rugs were made and embroidered by some acolytes. Yohan was sure of it. No way would the order had gone through the hardship of buying them when they have a large number of people that needs to be kept busy.
The dean of disciplinary committee’s office building to which Yohan was walking is simple and square with stained glass windows that depicted something that was left to interpretation by the artist. The images kept changing during the entirety of one cerulean cycle. Ones the cycle ends the images will start from the start again.
As a kid, Yohan and his friends had enjoyed trying to figure out what the pictures meant, each time something new idea would jump at them and as they grew older the ideas had grown.
Yohan had never bothered to ask a teacher what it meant. He wondered whether his old friends had ever asked anyone what it meant.
As Yohan approached the office, the feeling of dread in his stomach remained him of his immense lack of preparedness that had allowed Rijiju to catch him. Only if he had been more prepared. He could have escaped.
” Now let’s just not stand here outside, I don;t know about you but I am hungry ”
Yohan smiled bitterly.. it will be a long time before he would be allowed to even eat.
” Well and I believe you had enough cold wind at the side of your face to make you sick. We don’t want the fever to be too bad now do we.”
Yohan shook his head silently but stepped forward from the gentle push from Rijiju.
The inside of the office building was arched shape and lacked a door. Thieving was discouraged strongly with punishment from a younger age. Yohan still remembered the beating he had taken for stealing the kitchen knife. It seemed like a long time ago.
Yohan knocked on the door and took a step back and stood erect holding his back to his back reminiscing about the time he had taken a beating for causing trouble. He had made the trouble to get punished with the job of carrying parcels to the top. He wondered who carried his pack after he left the group.