“Welcome to Cod Bay!” An extremely excited voice called out from the slightly crowded streets of the British town. The Englishmen had finally arrived to the other side of the world, their second last stop at Ceylon before heading straight to China. The massive change of culture made it seem that they had travelled to a new world, architecture, clothing, mannerisms, goods. In fact, the only thing that seemed similar was the scarlet uniform of the colonial garrisons which policed the colony.
Garth, Damien and John were met by a Caucasian man, long hair held back as a pony tail, dressed in the traditional native clothing of Ceylon. A strange overeager smile plastered across the man’s face as he pressed his hands together in some kind of welcoming way. Two other men joined him, dressed in rather simple attires as pistols hung from their belts. Perhaps some form of guards.
“You travellers must have had it hard, coming all the way here. Are you tourists?” The strange man continued in his attempt at starting a conversation with the three, some kind of trade technique when it came to welcoming -and ripping off- tourists,
The three turned their heads to gaze at each other, John gave a small sigh of relief as he assumed the spears the three carried were unseen. Taking the advice of their South African acquaintance in carrying the spears naturally, of course, it seemed like this was working after all. “Sorry, we’re not interested in any goods now. We’re only stopping off.” John took control of the situation, stepping ahead of his two companions as he attempted to wave off the strange man,
“Oh no no, we’re not trying to sell some goods. I’m the owner of a rather well-known hotel. A very good one at that, we’ve had many politicians and other high-ranking officials.” The man began to explain, his arms flailing around almost comically as he paced back and forth, “We’re just offering you three some rooms in our hotel.”
It was quite a surprise to the three, appearing in an area with such a dramatic difference in culture and social customs, only to meet someone offering a place to stay. Not only was it a simple room, but it was apparently a well-known and expensive room. Was this man simply attempting to lure the three in before giving them an extortionate price? A technique to cheat people of their money before they even realise it. Although, John was extremely happy with such an offer, the glint in his eye was more than enough evidence of his convincing, let along the rest of his excited expression. That was to be expected, especially after the three had spent nearly half a year at sea.
“That’s amazing, we would love to-” John’s acceptance was barely interrupted by Garth as he decided to step forward, standing a little taller than the ex-soldier, when his back was straightened that is,
“Wait. Why are you offering us random tourists a place in some ‘well known hotel’? Isn’t it for politicians and the rich?” The usually quiet man questioned, forced to ask his own questions in order to prevent the three from being cheated into poverty. The strange man had already tensed up, his body slightly quivering as he struggled to think of an excuse to convince the three even further.
“N-now, we’re just-”
“Not only that, but you’re not even from here. The way you speak perfect English already speaks for itself, let alone your skin colour.” Garth continued further, forcing the man to flinch before freezing on the spot, “Not only that, but you’re attempting to cheat other Englishmen. I’m aware that some people may move here to have a new life, but from what we’ve had to deal with so far. We’d rather not take any risks.”
“Oh come on, Garth.” Damien finally joined the conversation, taking John’s side as he attempted to calm his friend’s worries, “We’re on the other side of the world now, there’s no way those people could come after us now. Besides, there has to be a reason this man is offering us a place to stay. Getting fewer customers?” The question was directed to the strange man, allowing him to return to his relaxed, eager state,
“You could say that…” He looked down as if troubled by something, yet also holding an expression of panicked thought, “We’re just… Stuck.. Yeah, stuck.” He looked up again, an even larger smile spread across the slightly annoying face in the attempts to seem more believable, “We have a guest arriving tomorrow who is extremely sociable. They chose our hotel expecting to see it being packed with guests, especially because of the… reviews.”
“Oh I get it, I get it.” John crossed his arms and nodded his head, humming calmly as if he was some kind of sage, “You want us to stay at your hotel to make it seem busy. But not many people go because they think it’s too good for them.”
“Yes!” The man grabbed John’s hands and lifted them to his chest, leaning forward so that he could stare into the explorer’s eyes, “I’m so happy you understand!”
“Then,” John pushed the man away, clearing his throat a little before continuing, “Give us half of the standard cost and we’ll do it.”
It was magnificent, reconstructed from an ancient architectural masterpiece. The outside walls were decorated with perfectly placed foliage, vines, stained glass. The inside exhibited an even greater view, a true source of undisturbed history in the form of statues, patterns, inscriptions. To top it off, beautiful women were all that manned this structure, each dressed in their own unique native attire, perfect skin, perfect faces, perfect bodies. It was amazing how this hotel could have such little business, anyone would be attracted to such an attractive sight.
“Yes yes, welcome to my hotel. Do you like what you see?” The strange man welcomed the group with a small dance, spinning through the main hall as he reached the reception desk, leaning across to gently rub his hand over the clerk’s perfect cheek. “We all try our best to please our guests, so don’t hesitate to ask. Okay?”
“This is amazing, thank you so much for inviting us here.” John answered the man’s question, his eyes fixed on scanning over every woman he could see, “And thanks for letting our crew stay here as well.”
“No no no, dear John.” The man jumped forward to dance around John, “I thank you all for such a great favour. Please, enjoy yourselves to the fullest. If you don’t mind, I have some business to attend to.”
And with that, the strange man disappeared from the main hall, dancing over to a ‘staff only’ doorway with an eccentric wave, leaving the three to set up transport plans for everyone’s luggage, it was a long walk from the docks, the hotel had to be placed on the other side of the town after all.
The walk was long and dangerous, risks of border controls targeting the three, bandits attempting to steal their goods, even the wildlife was a danger. However, these risks were easily ignored by Hugo as he ordered his ‘students’ to continue forth, some nights were easier than others as temporary camps were made up or a small stop in local villages. While other nights were too dangerous to stop, forcing the three to travel without sleep, knowing that the demons of the spears will give them the energy to continue. Except for Hugo, that is, as he had already passed out countless times. Finally, Constantinople had become a destination, a link from Europe to the Middle East.
Matias carried Hugo over his shoulder, grumbling to himself about how heavy the overly tired man was. It was day three of Hugo’s constant sleeping, probably the result of the sleepless nights forced upon the three. For now, the journey had to be placed on hold as Gabrielo begged the local citizens of the Ottoman capital for a bed, a place for their unconscious friend to rest. There was one problem, however, a problem that was definitely acknowledged by the Frenchman after he had planned to travel around the city:
The people do not take too kindly to white Europeans, although Gabrielo and Matias were Iberian, they were descendants of Caucasians, forced to live under the curse of Western power, experiencing hatred from almost any ethnicity across the world. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the police force decided to escort the three out of the city, or even imprison them for some false reasoning. In the end, luck was on their side.
The three were warmly welcomed by a pair of elderly retirees, quickly inviting the Europeans into their two-roomed home of the slums as if there was some kind of rush. Like someone was watching, or perhaps just some means to protect the three. Suspicion was all Gabrielo had on his mind as he followed Matias into the home, his spear held more tightly than usual.
A small rug was set up on the floor as a place for Hugo to be laid out, his spear placed beside him as his body was rearranged by the elderly couple into the recovery position. Not much of a conversation could take place between the two sides as they sat around a small table, simply waiting for Hugo to wake up from this slight coma.
“Um, thank… you…” Gabrielo attempted to speak to the couple, using his hands as a crude form of sign language, attempting to signal his thanks to the two. All that was given in reply was a slow and slight shake of the head by the old woman, her head lowered a little as she raised a single finger before speaking under her breath. Her next words were clearly understood as the native tongue of their homelands, a spell, or some kind of Ayna was used to allow this strange translation,
“You don’t need to thank us, it is the least we could do for the great Apostles,” she seemed extremely sincere, or perhaps she was glad with her decision to help the ‘apostles’,
“I’m sorry, we don’t understand what you mean…” Gabrielo decided to press for more information, it was perfectly safe to assume these elderly people to be knowledgeable on Ayna, yet the main questions was how they managed to speak fluent Portuguese and why they referred to the three as ‘apostles’.
“Oh? Was there another word for that? The way you people keep changing your titles makes it hard to keep track,” the woman mumbled on, grumbling to herself as she attempted to think of a way to explain herself. Purposely taking her time in order to make the most of the three’s visit, “The spears,” she pointed to Gabrielo’s spear, “You three are connected to the gods, right? Well, I shouldn’t ask that, only the god’s favourites can wield those spears.”
Matias clapped his hands together in realisation, he had figured out what the woman was talking about as he stood from the table. Instead of asking questions to learn more as his partner would attempt, Matias boldly held his spear to his side, taking some sort of high pose. Even though the aimed atmosphere was destroyed by the crumbling stone walls and rotting wooden supports of the dwelling. “That’s right, we are Apostles of the spear gods. We are on a journey to strengthen our bodies to match the wills of our lords, our destination as China.” Each sentence was accompanied with a new exaggerated pose as Matias milked the situation, enjoying the looks of amazement which filled the elderly’s faces, “However, the ancient route has been broken by humanity’s recent developments, we have reached a dead-end…” the strange poses Matias gave which perfectly matched the aimed emotion of his words was comparable to the masterful actors of Shakespearean plays itself, perhaps he had chosen the wrong profession.
The two ‘followers’ clapped in admiration for their Apostle, their eyes opened wide as if they had witnessed the birth of a new demigod, the strange speech was timed perfectly with the setting sun as the bright yellow rays pierced through the open window of the house, forcing the Spaniard’s body to become a silhouette, symbolising even more of a divine appearance. Gabrielo, on the other hand, was left crouched forward in what seemed to be pain. One hand was pressed against his mouth as the opposite arm crossed over his stomach, his entire body quivered as he tried his best to hold back his laughter. It was obvious that what Matias had done would help the three, but the way he did it was as comical as any court jester.
“We can help you! We just ask for one thing…” The old woman was happy to help, yet the tone of her voice seemed to suggest something. Something that was wrong, “Can you three accompany us to the church? It’s a small community but we all worship your gods, we just need some boost in morale…” She seemed to stutter a lot with many pauses after realising the trivial request she had given to the three, they had much more important things to do.
“Sure, but wait until Hugo wakes up at least.” Matias agreed without hesitation, his voice and actions of returning to his seat, a single hand waving in a dismissive manner. It was as if accompanying worshippers were normal, even though it’s the first time. Yet there was nothing that could compare to the feeling which came simultaneously with the sight of pure happiness and thankfulness, their smiles unlimited, yet limited to the size of their faces. It was a great feeling, something that could soon turn to an addiction…
The more that was experienced of this foreign hotel, the more amazing and high-class it became. The rooms were of the highest quality ever seen by the three Englishmen, the stairwells, hallways, windows, decorations, everything was completely awe-inspiring. Nothing could ever compare to such a perfect place, it’s as if they could stay here forever, like nothing else ever mattered. The ground floor restaurant was filled with the beautiful women which man the hotel, they attracted every sailor from their rooms to watch the show which was given specifically for the guests. A simple show of traditional dancing and singing at a raised stage placed against the far wall, tables littered the area around as a single bar calmly stood across one side of the room, each stool filled with sailors as they enjoyed the high tier alcohol.
“This is amazing, Garth,” Damien spoke through a filled mouth, stuffing meat into his gullet. A perfect taste, the tickling sensation of the slightly spiced meat covered the tongue as it continued down the throat into the stomach. The way the food was at perfect temperature, heating from the inside out as the feeling of pure satisfaction pulsed through his body. “You gotta loosen up,”
Garth simply hummed in dismissal as he continuously stared into his glass of wine, only a few mouthfuls of his dinner was eaten before his appetite was quickly lost. All that was left was the deep though which accompanied a ‘genius’, slowly growing intoxicated by the smell of the aged wine instead of drinking. He watched the dancers moved their bodies in the most smooth and natural way a human could achieve, no, some movements seemed impossible. Something was off, Damien and John had already fallen for some spell which leaked from the too-perfect atmosphere of this hotel. Or was he just too paranoid? It had been nearly three-quarters of a year since the discovery of the spears, nothing but negative events had come from that. Of course it would make sense to be suspicious of this place, where was that strange man?
Garth stood from his seat, calmly returning his filled glass to the table as he turned to leave. His actions postponed as John called out, “Where are you going, man?” he questioned out of pure concern, noticing how Garth had become more and more quiet. How he had never seemed to enjoy any time spent with his companions, “The show’s just begun, just drink and you’ll be alright!”
“You sound just like him…” Garth spoke under his breath, his fist clenched as he grasped the shaft of his spear, pulling it away from its spot of leaning against the table. “I’m just going to get some fresh air,” He spoke much louder this time, allowing the two to hear his words over the cheers and conversations of the surrounding sailors. There wasn’t a chance of reply given to the two as Garth quickly walked away from the table, leaving the restaurant,
“What’s wrong with him?” John asked Damien, confused at the strange behaviour that was suddenly shown,
“It’s probably too loud for him, y’know, his hearing got more sensitive.” Damien replied, the assumption made a lot of sense given the situation, sparking a nod of understanding in the ex soldier as he returned to indulging in the perfect view and perfect food served to him.
Garth sat atop the short wall which wrapped around the hotel, his eyes slowly drifted upwards as he watched the clear night sky. Stars glistened against the black canvas as small, thin clouds calmly drifted across the seas of the atmosphere. Finally, there was silence, a chance for his mind to fall blank as the stress of questions could be ignored. What did he want to do with his life again? That’s it, solve a mystery. Those documents of past archaeologists outlining a hidden Mayan temple, sketches of ancient inscriptions talking about some form of magic, some power, the spears. He wanted to figure out what it all meant, why was Damien’s work in Egypt talking about some ancient spear when the same description of this ‘artefact’ was included in Mexico? Why were they all kept in one temple when the rest of the world seemed to talk about them? Surely the lack of easy transport would have made it impossible for these cultures to interact, along with the massive time differences between their records. Here we go again, stressful questions are arising once more.
“Good, I want you to prepare it as soon as possible. Tell her that they need to be stalled…” A voice spoke from the opposite side of the front garden near the staff entrance of the hotel, heard clearly by Garth’s newly sensitive ears as he picked up footsteps of what seemed to be two people approaching his destination. Probably some sailors heading for a walk or something along those lines, that was, until the voice seemed to match someone else.
“Ah, master Garth.” The voice spoke out as it recognised the man’s brown rugged hair, left to its own style without any need to refine it. “I’ll see you later, do a good job.” The voice seemed to give its farewell to the other pair of feed, finally coming into view as some kind of poorly dressed man who walked quickly away from the hotel. The voice which had recognise Garth had finally appeared beside him, taking a seat on the wall, it was the strange man who owned this palace-like building.
“I thought you only employed women.” Garth stated, refusing to look at the weirdo,
“I never said I did. After all, there are some jobs women can’t do, like heavy lifting and such.”
“So you admit that guy was working for you,”
“There’s not a problem with that, right?”
“So,” the man’s arm was placed around Garth’s neck, “what are you doing out here alone? Isn’t the show good enough for you?”
Garth shook his head in reply as he kindly pushed the arm away, “I just wanted to get some air,”
“Something’s troubling you,” the statement forced a flinching reaction in the Englishman, was he really that easy to read? A stare was thrown at the strange man as he lit a cigarette, taking his time as he held a second cigarette out, an offer to Garth.
“I don’t smoke,” He kindly declined,
“No, I insist, it’ll help you.”
A little hesitation was given before Garth finally accepting the offering, holding the end to his mouth as the owner lit the tip. “Suck through the end and inhale,” the instructions were given as the match was held to the end, Garth followed obediently before coughing hard. His lungs rejected the smoke harshly, the cough forcing some snot to fall from his nose, quickly wiped away with a tissue held in the chest pocket.
“Try again, you’ll get the hang of it.”
Again, he followed as told, puffing more and more on the cigarette until his lungs finally accepted the toxins that were carried in. As it was suggested, smoking was helping him, he was slowly becoming more and more calm with each lungful. It must be something to do with the breathing technique that accompanied smoking: suck, inhale, hold, exhale, repeat.
“So, what’s on your mind, Garthykins? I’ll listen to you.” The strange man seemed to talk more openly, his voice had lost its playful nature as it became more natural. Much deeper than one would expect of a man who dressed as a girl, although that could just be the traditional clothing of this land.
The Englishman sighed, he thought hard at where to start, or if he should even start at all. There was something about this man which seemed wrong, as if the whole suspicion that plagued his mind originated from this one man. “Well…”