‘Beware the Evenglow.’ A father advised, closing the curtain on the window. The dim world shutoff from him, all Thomas Akhen-Sayer could see was the dying candlelight in his parents’ small shack.
‘You know that this ceremony belongs to those of age.’ His father placed a firm hand on his shoulder and led him away from the window. ‘You’ll have your day, Akhen-son. But it’s not today.’ He smiled as he closed the bedroom door on his ten-year-old son.
His father couldn’t see Thomas’ own smile from behind the door. Getting caught was part of his plan. Carefully carrying a lit candle, he opened his window and grabbed a ragged coat. Every year the Clockwork Pilgrim passed through the Heartland and every year he was denied this pilgrimage. This year would be different.
Gripping the candlestick between his teeth he climbed out his window taking in the view of the dim Evenglow. He could feel the flame singeing his pale face. He carefully climbed down the drain on the side of the small shack, it was a climb he had done many times.
He dropped down onto the paved street below him with a loud thud. He looked around to make sure no one had seen his descent. His father would already be screaming if he had.
His smile widened as he ran towards the gathering crowd, flailing the lit candle in his hand. ‘All hail the Pilgrim!’ Yelled a priest to the the congregation. ‘All hail the Iron Pilgrim, he who holds the sun in his hands!’ The priest was dressed in a silver robe with a metal visor covering most of his face.
A line of priests knelt in front of the congregation with their hands out in front of them. The Pilgrim passed with the setting sun. Always with his hands out as if he held the sun in his metal hands. Thomas had never seen a Priest of the Pilgrim in person. After all, this was his first Pilgrim’s day.
Thomas was Akhen, firstborn of the Sayer Kin. Another year and he would be of age, but Thomas couldn’t wait another year to see the Pilgrim.
The perpetual Evenglow of the world around him cast a soft amber light on the congregation. The candle in his hand carried him through the twilit town square. It felt like a dream to Thomas. Something he had only heard about in stories being brought to life in front of his eyes.
He walked past the street performers, acrobats and fire jugglers. Everyone was eager to give their skills to the Pilgrim.
He walked past the throngs of Royal guards with their silver spears and ceremonial armour. Even the Royal Guard had an air of merriment in their eyes; nevertheless, they had a duty to fulfil.
No one had spotted him. He would be the first child to witness the Pilgrim. He would wear that title as a badge of honour.
He made his way to the front of the crowd. Two lines of silver royal guards lined either side of the massive street. They all knew their positions, this was a yearly tradition.
He took his spot behind two shield bearers , there was a small gap between them where he would have a clear view of the Pilgrims’ passing.
Cheering and singing carried on the wind from down the street. The festival was beginning; the Pilgrim was on his way.
He heard a deep accusatory cough come from behind him. ‘This day isn’t for you, is it?’ Thomas turned and was blinded by the chrome of a Royal Guard.
‘Why can’t I see the Pilgrim?’ Thomas pleaded.
‘You’re not of age.’ The Guard softened. ‘I don’t make the rules. Let me take you home.’
Thomas nodded and started to walk away with the Royal Guard. They were back at the town centre with the performers. The town was fragrant with the smell of sweet smoke from the fire jugglers.
The Guard couldn’t take his eyes off one of the jugglers. She was throwing three batons of fire in the air with another one in her mouth. She was nothing but a blur of red.
Thomas took his chance. He quickly turned and sprinted back towards the Pilgrim. ‘Get back here kid!’ The Guard yelled. Any softness now gone.
‘I’m not waiting another year!’ Thomas yelled back.
He ducked under an elderly couple and shoved another Guard aside. Today was not the day for compassion.
He glanced behind him, he now had four guards after him, but they were slow, he was quickly gaining distance. He jumped inside a group of bystanders. Panting, he looked around. The guards were no where to be seen. He had lost them.
Then he heard the distant boom. Followed by another boom. There was cheering coming from down the Pilgrim’s Path, the chrome road that the city had been built around. He pushed his way through the crowd to the front of the road.
Thomas could hardly contain the excitement in him. He had always dreamt of this day. He was going to be the youngest person to see the Pilgrim and no one could stop him now.
He heard a tremor shake underneath him, followed by a distant boom. The Pilgrim was coming. The tremors got stronger, the booming got louder. Thomas was standing barely an inch from the Priest in front of him.
He felt a firm hand grasp his shoulder. He spun around straight into a familiar bearded face. ‘Today is not your day, Akhen-Son.’ His father beamed down at him, blowing out the melting candle in his sons’ hand. ‘Let’s go home.’