Seven Million Golden Fish

The 16 Lost Cities
November 19, 2008, 6:23 am
Filed under: fiction, news | Tags: ,

cityThe Elder looked up from the manuscript he had been reading and looked quizzically at the crowd gathered in front of him. Up front, a tall man – with a patrician nose and sharp eyes that looked grey from certain angles – stood talking with an older man with a paunch and a slack-jawed look; to their left, a small knot of young ones stood gawking at the great hall they were in, as though uncertain that they belonged there; and behind them, stretching all the way to the other end of the hall, there stood the others – an odd assortment of men and women, some old, some young; some meek and others brass; some standing silently from the rest, wrapped in an air of mountain stillness, and other talking incessantly about anything and everything.

The Elder cleared his throat. It was a soft sound, barely above a whisper, but it was enough to silence the hall. All eyes turned to him and waited.

“We seem to be missing some of your number,” he said solemnly.

The reaction was immediate. All throughout the hall, cries of indignation erupted. The noise ran unabated for almost a minute until the tall one with the patrician nose raised a hand to the crowd and addressed the Elder.

“Who, Milord Senex, seems to be missing?”

The Elder peered into the manuscript again. “Bogo is not here, nor Cabadbaran. I spoke with Baybay, Tandag, Catbalogan and his brother Borongan yesterday, but I haven’t seen them since. Tayabas had a disagreement with Lamitan – called her wayward or something of that sort – so maybe that’s why neither of them are here. Strangely, tho’ even their names seem to have disappeared from this roll.”

“Eight of our number!” the slack-jawed man exclaimed.

“Well, not just eight, Manila,” the Elder replied. “Other names have disappeared. Those of you who know them, perhaps you can help sort this out. Tabuk is missing, and so are Bayugan, Batac, and Mati. Guihulugan is not here either; nor Carcar, El Salvador, and Naga.”

Sixteen!” The patrician hissed. Looking up at the Elder, the patrician asked: “How long do we have?”

The Elder looked down at the crowd in the hall and shook his head sadly. “The Old Man is eager to close the Doors and, well, he’s been accusing me of dragging my feet to delay things. When he closes the Doors after the Selene has run the next race and these 16 cities still have not been located, I’m afraid they might never be found at all.”

“But the Wall …!” someone in the back of the hall shouted. The cry was quickly taken up by others. “Yes, what about the Wall?” “Who’ll stand their watch?” “Who?”

The Elder held up his hand again. “You will. With any sort of luck, the Ancient of the Sea has gone to sleep by now and will no longer try to break the Wall before the Doors are thrown open again. Still, you never know. He might hear about this and decided that now is the opportunity he has long awaited.”

The echo from the words of the Elder had not evenĀ  died down when the great doorway at the end of the hall flew open. The crowed gasped as one when, staggering, a lone figure entered. Its clothes were tattered and soaking wet, and from his head hung tendrils of thorny seaweed. “I bring news, milords,” the figure rasped.

“The Ancient has battered down the Regis Wall. The Lower Levels are flooded and the Drowned are rising.”

In the tumult that ensued, few noticed – and even fewer cared – that the bringer of news had fallen down dead.