Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chapter 8: Father Achilleos (Mark I)

Caden and Rilyn went to the temple as soon as they finished eating. They left Starlight and most of their gear back at the Blue Fox. They walked along the river. They banks of the river were replaced by stone levees. About every eight fathoms there were stone stairs and a stone landing for boats to tie up to. Many fish merchants docked at the landings and sold the fish straight from the boat.

Rilyn plugged her nose. "Uhg," she grunted. "I hate the smell of fish."
"So, do I," Caden said. "And the taste is even worse."
"Well, at least Cassy gave us good food before I lost my appetite from this smell."
"Yeah, I guess she heard some rumor about us."
"You mean a rumor about you," Rilyn said. She poked Caden in the ribs. "I wasn't even mentioned."
"It's not a big deal." He shrugged. "Everyone is going to forget about it and move on to a new story tomorrow anyway."
"This coming from a kid who sat on the roof of a Tavern to listen to traveler's tales."
"How did you..."
"The mayor told me." She slapped Caden on the back. "He said it was important information to know."
Caden blushed. "Well, from now on, I'm going to be writing my own stories."
They walked around a corner and saw numerous people stand on the Temple mall. Father Achilleos and two other priests were speaking with them.
Rilyn looked at Caden. "Another witch?"
Caden shook his head and ran up the steps and onto the mall.
The people in the crowd were shouting to the three priests. "... protect my son!" "My brother disappeared on his way to Scania, can he find him?" Everyone was calling out a request for protection, aid, and a few seeking revenge.
Caden pushed his way to the front of the crowd. "Father!" he called. "Father!" He got pushed back and fell down. He moved between the crowds legs till he got right next to Father Achilleos. "Father!"
Father Achilleos looked at Caden and grabbed him by the arm. "Good, to see you my boy," he said. "Now let's go." Father Achilleos lead Caden through the shouting mob.
"Shouldn't we go inside the temple?" Caden pointed behind them.
"Uh..." Father Achilleos looked back at the crowd. "Where are you staying?"
"The Blue Fox."
"That will be much better I think." Father Achilleos lead Caden away from the shouting mob and past Rilyn. She followed them.
Father Achilleos didn't say anything until they were sitting in the Blue Fox's common room. He asked Caden to tell him what happened with Father Coteson. Cassy served them all cinnamon milk tea. While Caden talked, Father Achilleos scratched his short scraggly beard. Their mugs stopped steaming before Caden stopped talking.
When Caden finished his story, Father Achilleos said, "That is very distressing. Brother Coteson was protecting a very religious site. There might be greater dangers then the dragon queen."
"Then you didn't see what she did to my home," Caden said. "And what was going on at the temple?"
"People have been making requests," said Father Achilleos. "That are beyond the church." He took a drink of cold tea. "As for the dangers I mentioned, I spoke with the council of Brothers, and the Dragon Queen has been seen attacking other Temples."
"Where has she been seen? We need to get that information to the Knights!"
Father Achilleos held up his hands. "That will be dealt with in due course," he said. "However, the barrier that protects the temples seems to be fading. The next temple that the Dragon Queen may not survive the assault."
"Barrier?" asked Caden. "Do you mean the magic that saved our temple?"
"Yes. There was something very important in Erdon that made that protection possible."
"The Queen's Heart."
"No." Father Achilleos shook his head. "There is something far more valuable in Erdon."
Rilyn looked at Caden. He shrugged.
"Brother Michael was supposed to go, but he seemed busy today. I think I shall make the trip to Erdon in his place." Father Achilleos looked at Caden. "If you'll talke me."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chapter 8: Rumors Over Breakfast (Mark I)

Caden woke up early. He got dressed. As he pulled his shirt on, he looked at Rilyn's sleeping form. She had the covers pulled tightly around her, like it was a shield against some unforeseen danger. Caden looked at her swords. The sheaths were made from bone, and split along the top so you lifted the swords out rather then drawing them. The blades etched with a jagged pattern, so that when placed side by side, the curve formed a perfect circle with a sun etched around the rim.

Caden held the swords up and looked at Rilyn. "Where are you from?" he said. He looked at the blanket covering most of her face. "And even sleeping, you still hide your face from me." He shook his head and put the swords away. He walked out of the room. "You're one strange man."
In the common room, Cassy came over and served him a bowl with a cinnamon bread soaking in steaming milk. Caden noted how the bread lacked a distinctive cinnamon swirl when he cut it open and it absorbed the milk much too quickly.
He looked up at Cassy. "Cinnamon?" he asked. "Isn't that a bit extravagant for what we pay?"
"True," she said. "But I want you to come back again."
"Why?" Caden took a bite of the meal.
Cassy set down a mug of tea sweetened with steamed cinnamon spiced milk. "I heard a rumor the other day, and I think you had something to do with it."
"What was that?" Caden took a drink of tea.
Cassy sat down across from Caden. "Well, some people were saying that the local guard picked up a couple of Bandits. They were wanted for several muggings on the south highway. The guards found them with major injurys, but two were still alive. When they were brought in, they talked about a man with a holy, green and black, sword. Now everyone in town is talking about some holy knight who's purging the wicked."
Caden choked on his tea.
"When I saw you bring that stone sword into your room last night," she said. "I figured it had to be you."
"Well," Caden said. "I wouldn't put too much faith into rumors."
Cassy looked up, and said, "Where's your friend?"
"I think maybe he had too much to drink last night," Caden said. "He's still asleep."
"He's so mysterious, always covered up like that."
"You're telling me," Caden said. "At night, he even covers up with his blanket." Caden leaned over the taple and whispered, "I think he's secretly hiding some hideous scar."
Cassy laughed. Caden joined her. They sat and talked till more patrons came in looking for breakfast and Cassy went back to work.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chapter 8: The Road Home (Mark I)

Caden rode Starlight. Rilyn walked on the left side. They crossed the hills and valleys as they returned to Tinate. They travelled an extra half day out of their way to avoid going through Sharsden a second time. The small rodent rode on Caden's shoulders. He fed it small bites of bread.

"You shouldn't feed that," Rilyn said. "It is a wild animal."
"It's okay, it's okay," Caden said waving his hand at Rilyn. "It's tame. A merchant probably carried it from the other side of the Yongsan Mountains before it escaped it's cage." Caden petted the furry creature.
"You're a strange person."
"How so?"
"You trust everybody," Rilyn said. "I don't know anyone who would go out of their way to defend someone who is accused to be a witch."
"Maybe more people should," Caden said. "How many innocent people may have suffered for a false accusation?"
Rilyn sighed. "I suppose." He walked next to Caden in silence. "You're a good person," whispered Rilyn. "I'd hate to see what you'd become if you actually join the Dragon Knights."
Caden didn't hear Rilyn, he just continued to look forward and ride back to Tinate.

When Caden and Rilyn reached Tinate, they traveled straight to the temple. Caden tied up Starlight in the temple mall. The small rodent jumped off of Caden's shoulder. Caden watched it run under a building into a sewer drain.
"I guess our friend isn't much of a temple patron," said Caden.
Rilyn sighed and shook his head. They walked over to the temple doors and Caden pulled. The door was locked. Caden furrowed his brow and pulled again.
"That's odd," Caden said.
"The temple doors shouldn't be locked."
"Tinate is a bigger place then Erdon. Maybe it's normal here."
"No," Caden said. "The book of the 3rd Sage, Chapter 18, verse 26. 'The doors of the sanctuary shall never be sealed, so that none are denied salvation.' It's a cardinal rule of the order."
"You have the sacred texts memorized?" asked Rilyn.
"Not all of them."
"Come on," Rilyn said. He grabbed Caden's shirt. "I'm hungry, and I want something other then stew bread." Rilyn dragged Caden to Starlight. "We'll get a room at the Blue Fox and come back in the morning."
"That's okay." Caden said. He continued to look back at the Temple. "We're out of Stew Bread anyway."

Caden and Rilyn sat in the common room of the Blue Fox. Caden stirred and nibbled at the stew. He looked across the table at Rilyn. Rilyn had already eaten two bowls and was attacking his third with a dinner roll smothered in butter.
"I thought you were sick of Stew and Bread?" Caden asked.
"No," Rilyn said. He held up his spoon. "I'm sick of Stew Bread. This stuff is much better."
"It's the same stuff, just the bread is a lower quality."
"Wrong, this stuff is warm." Rilyn went back to eating.
Caden picked up his mug. He frowned at the pungent smell of the brown stout, but at least it was better then the shine. He took a swig of the bitter drink, and watched Rilyn finish another mug. He drank like Sir Eric did.
A man from the other side of the common room stood up and walked over. He was a stout and overweight man. His large stomach strained the stitches on his stained cream shirt. He didn't so much walk, as he waddled over to Caden.
"You're Caden of Erdon," he said, "aren't you?"
"Yes," Caden answered. "How did you know?"
"I come here a lot. I saw you last time you passed through and overheard you talking about the Dragon Knights." He pulled up his drooping pants and stratched his shaggy beard. "So how did that go?"
"Better then expected," Caden answered. Caden looked across the table at Rilyn and raised an eyebrow.
Rilyn shrugged and shook his head.
"That's great," he said. "Next time you're in Tinate, stop by and tell me more about your journeys." The man shook Caden's hand and waddled out the door.
Caden waved Cassy over to their table. "Who was that?" Caden asked.
Cassy looked out the window and saw the man leaving the Courtyard gate. "I don't know. I've never seen him before."
Caden looked at Rilyn.
Rilyn passed a bush axe to Caden under the table. "Sleep lightly tonight."

Rilyn stayed in the common room for an hour after Caden left to sleep. She slipped into the room, being careful with the door. She closed it slowly and put the latch down. She walked over to Caden's bed and checked on him. He was sound asleep, the brush axe had fallen on the floor and was stuck in the boards. She smiled. She took off her hat and cloak, freeing her long fiery red hair. She unhooked her swords and set them at the foot of her bed. She took an ivory comb and worked it through her hair. She looked at Caden's sleeping form and smiled. She climbed into the opposite bed and went to sleep.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chapter 7: The General (Mark I)

Rilyn sat in grass and watched the clouds drift by. Starlight grazed. Caden recounted the tale of the Dragon Queen to the general. The general listened and nodded. His brow was tight, and he kept a tight frown on his face.
When Caden finished, the general said, "That's quite the story.゛
"It's true,"Caden said.
"I believe you."
"So you'll rescue Keilee?"
"I'll send my best dragon trackers out immediately. Without fail, I promise they will find this dragon and kill it by the next new moon."

"But this isn't any ordinary dragon," Caden said. "It's the Dragon Queen."
"The great sages have left us everything we need to deal with that old lizard." The general put his hand on Caden's shoulder. "And if your friend is still alive, we'll bring her back to your village."
"I want to go with." Caden looked up at the general.
"Oh?" The general looked down into Caden's eyes.
"Please, reconsider, let me join," Caden said. "I'm stronger then I look, let me go with the dragon trackers so that I may help rescue Keilee."
The general's brow relaxed, and he smiled. "If it means that much to you."
Caden smiled.
"I'm not supposed to do this." The general leaned down and whispered to Caden. "But I will make you a deal."
Rilyn looked and watched closely as the general whispered into Caden's ear.

Caden and Rilyn walked back to where they left Su. Rilyn looked at Caden. He hadn't stopped smiling since they departed ways from the general.
"Are you going to tell me what he said, or is this another secret?"
"No, I'll tell you," said Caden. "He agreed to let me join the Dragon Knights."
"Okay, so why are you leaving?"
"I need to talk with Sir Eric. I can only join them if I prove my strength and bring them the heads of five dragons. I figure Sir Eric should know how to track down some small ones."
Rilyn shook his head and followed behind Caden. "Then we should double your training so you can defeat them with the stone sword."
Caden looked back and smiled. He raised his left hand over his shoulder and gave Rilyn a thumbs up. "Sounds like a plan."
They reached the top of the hill where they left Su. But she was no longer on the outcropping of rock. Caden dropped his knapsack and looked around, but couldn't find her anywhere.
Rilyn smiled, glad to be rid of the troublesome girl. "Well, guess she left. Let's hurry back to Tinate."
"It's late, we should camp here and continue on in the morning," Caden said. "She might come back yet tonight."
"Fine. I'll build a fire."
Caden walked over to his knapsack and saw a small furry creature trying to untie the knot. "Hey, get away from there!" Caden ran at it. It jumped away and ran away. It stopped and stood up on it's hind legs. Caden never saw anything like it before. It looked like a rodent, but had a long, slim sinewy body.
It looked at Caden like it was begging for food. Caden sighed. He opened his knapsack and took out a loaf of stew bread. He tore off a fourth of it and threw it onto the ground. The rodent thing picked it up and started to eat.
"No more," Caden said. "I need to make the rest of this last till we return home."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chapter 7: Dragon Knights (Mark I)

Rilyn walked behind Caden and Su. She seemed normal. Her hair was the same dark brown most people had in this country. She was about a head shorter then Caden. Rilyn guessed she was around 15 harvests. Which was the oddest thing about her, traveling alone so young.

Caden wasn't saying much, but she was talking on and on. Nothing unusual either, just meaningless chatter. Rilyn couldn't understand why she hated her so much. Watching her pick wildflowers, making Caden laugh. Rilyn didn't want Su to be a witch. She just wanted a reason to get rid of her. Rilyn watched as Caden and Su talked. How she made him smile, made him laugh. Caden was talking about what happened. Rilyn gribbed her swords, imagining Su without a head.
"... and that's when the Dragon Queen took Keilee. Now I'm on a quest to save her."
"Wow," said Su. "When I asked why you needed the Dragon Knights, I didn't expect all that."
"I figure it's what they're best at, right?"
"I don't know." Su rubbed the back of her head. "I mean, I didn't even think Dragon's existed."
"Of course they exist," Caden said. "Didn't you listen to all the stories when you went to temple?"
"To tell you the truth," Su said. "My family didn't go to temple all that often."
Caden looked at Su. She looked up at him. He blushed. She laughed.
"Why?" Rilyn asked. "Too sacred for your family traditions?"
Caden looked at Rilyn, his brow tight, his mouth frowning, and his eyes looked dark. Was she bewitching him? Clouding his mind?
Su looked back over her shoulder. "What? I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were in this conversation." She sneered at Rilyn and ran ahead. She ran up the hill, and climbed onto one of the jagged outcroppings of rock. "Hey Caden," she called. "Come here and look at this."
Caden looked at Rilyn again. Then he ran up the hill to join her. Starlight snorted and trotted behind him. Even the horse hates me, thought Rilyn.
Caden let go of Starlight's reigns so he could climb up the rock after Su. She pointed out into the distance. "Look," she said. "You can see the Dragon Knight training camp from here." Caden looked out.
On top of another hill, about two hours away, Caden could see a green wall. "Still pretty far."
"Well, I showed you the way."
Caden looked at Su. "Are you leaving?"
"I only said I would show you the way," Su said. "I don't want to go there."
"Okay, well..." Caden looked at Rilyn drudging up the hill. "Thanks for your help."
Su touched Caden's cheek. "Tell you what," she said. "I'll wait here for you. If you want me to continue traveling with you, come back for me."
Caden jumped down off of the rock. Rilyn made it up the hill. Caden mounted Starlight. Rilyn looked up at Su sitting on the rock. "She's not coming," Caden said. He reached out to Rilyn. "Come on, if we both ride, we can get there sooner."
Starlight looked at Rilyn and snorted. "Can you carry us both?" Rilyn asked. Starlight pawed at the ground, snorted, and shook her head. Rilyn looked at Caden. "Was that a yes?"
"No," Caden said. "That was a, 'I can't talk, I'm just a horse.' Now hurry up."

Rilyn and Caden road up to the camp wall. As they got closer, they could see the wall was a fathom tall rose bush. It was thick too, Caden looked at it, and couldn't see through. The branches seemed to twine together tighter and tighter farther in. They rode around the camp till they reached the gate. It was a large stone and wood door, with two Dragon Knights standing guard in front. They wore metal breastplates, except the left shoulder pieces were made from wood and leather. Their left ears and eyes were missing, replaced by jagged scars.
Caden dismounted and approached the Knights. They drew their swords. "Halt," they said. "Come no closer to this holy land."
"We come to seek the aide of the Dragon Knights," Caden said.
The guard on the right sheathed his sword. "Fear not," he said. "The Dragon Knights protect all the citizens of this Kingdom. Return home, for you are safe."
"But I have urgent news," said Caden. "A general was in my town recently. He came here with three recruits from Erdon."
"It is an honor to serve the Dragon Knights," he said. "I hope you're not here to ask for their return."
"No, I'm here to ask the general for many more knights to return and protect us from a great evil."
"Then tell me what you wish to say, and I shall convey the message."
"No, I will only talk with the general," Caden said. "He must here this from me."
The two Knights looked at each other. The one on the left whistled. A falcon flew down and landed on the wooden shoulder guard. It sat there for a minute before it took off. "The general will be coming shortly," he said.
Caden and Rilyn sat and waited. Starlight grazed. Caden kept staring at the horrible scars they had. He wondered how they lost their left ears and eyes. The scars were similar, so it looked like it happened in the same way.
The gate opened and the general stepped out. He looked at Caden and smiled. "Long way from home," he said. "Aren't you boy."
Caden stood up. "I want you to know," he said. "I learned my lesson from our last meeting, and everything I say is the truth."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chapter 7: New Path (Mark I)

Caden and Rilyn walked up a hill. They exited Sharsden on the opposite road that they came in on. Neither talked on the hike up the steep hill. At the top, they stopped next to the lone tree and looked back at the town. A few people stood at the edge of town and stared back up at them.

"Makes you wonder," Rilyn said. "Doesn't it?"
"What the Dragon Knights have done to that town to make them react like that."
"No, it doesn't," Caden said. "It's clear that the man has corrupted the town."
"What man?"
"The man with the dark shroud," said Caden. "I don't know what it means, but I know he caused this."
"Sucks doesn't it?" said a voice from the tree.
Rilyn and Caden looked up. The young woman from Tinate sat on a branch. She wore brown boots with a short dark green dress.
"What does?" Rilyn asked. He dropped his hands under his cloak and grabbed the handle of his curved swords.
"Getting chased out of town for something you didn't do." She jumped out of the tree and landed in front of Rilyn. She stuck out her hand. "Hi, I'm Suzidan."
"Hey Su," Caden said. "What are you doing out here?"
Su spun around on her toe. She faced Caden. "Hi Cady. I followed you. Thought maybe you could use my help."
"And what makes you think you can help us?" asked Rilyn.
"Well, let's see." She placed a finger on her lips. "Caden saved my life, so I guess I owe him the same." She tapped her mouth. "What else, oh that's right! I know where the Dragon Knight training camp is."
"Will you show us?" asked Caden.
"Of course I will." Su kicked the tree. It shook and a bag fell out of the branches. She caught it and slipped the strap over her shoulders. "Shall we go then?" She walked away from the town as leaves from the tree drifted down around her.
Caden followed. Rilyn grabbed his elbow, stopping him. "This is too convient," he said. "I don't trust her."
Caden shook his arm free. "Will you relax," Caden said. "She's not a witch. Trust me on this."
"Not unless you can tell me what happened in that tower."
Caden dropped his head. "It's complicated." He clicked his tongue and pulled Starlight by the reigns. He walked after Su.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chapter 7: Shattered Dreams (Mark I)

Caden dreamt that night. In his dream, he was grown up. He was strong, his arms and chest well defined and muscular from the training Rilyn gave him. He was by the river, Keilee was safe and sleeping with her head on his lap. He stroked her hair. He heard a splash. Out in the river, another woman was bathing. Her wet skin glimmered in the orange light of the dying fire while the water sparkled under the full moon. She was the most beautiful woman Caden had ever seen. Her long red hair glistened.

That morning, they broke camp, ate the last of the wheat bread and preserves, and set off down the highway. As they walked along that morning, Rilyn saw Caden smiling like a fool.
"What are you smiling about?" He asked.
"Oh, nothing," Caden said. "I just had a really good dream last night."
"Well, stay focused on the real world. I don't understand why you like that thing." Rilyn pointed at the Stone Sword. "But until you can lift it all the time, I want you to stick to the short sword."
"It's not a sword," Caden said. "It's a brush axe."
"Still, you can actually lift it, so use that till you get stronger."
"Okay." The mention of getting stronger made Caden think about his dream again.
"From what Ramone said, we should reach Sharsden around noon," Rilyn said.

They continued to walk down the highway. The terrain had few trees, but many hills dotted by giant boulders jutting out of them at odd angles. By noon, it was hotter then the day before. Caden was sweating a river. He emptied the water flask he had filled that morning by the river. He looked at Rilyn. Rilyn still wore the same cloak with the high collar covering his face up to his nose. The wide brimmed hat cast a shadow over his eyes.
"Damn, aren't you hot?" asked Caden.
"Do you ever take that cloak off?"
"The cloak is what keeps me cool," said Rilyn. "It's been blessed to protect me from the second sun."
Caden shielded his eyes and squinted at the single sun in the sky. "What are you talking about?"
Caden and Rilyn reached the top of a hill. They looked down at a valley nestled between 5 hills. In the valley, there was a town about the same size as Erdon.
"That must be Sharsden," Rilyn said.
"I doubt the Dragon Knights are still there," said Caden. "Let's go down and see if anyone knows where their training camp is."
Caden and Rilyn walked down the hill and into the town. There are very few people in the streets, and all of them were woman or small children. The buildings were old and rundown. Caden noticed many buildings looked boarded up and abandoned. The ceiling of the stables next to the smithy collapsed and hasn't been repaired. The forge inside was cold and covered in dust and cobwebs. Tools were scattered on the floor and rusted.
"What happened here?" asked Caden.
"This town looks dead."
Caden saw an old woman and young boy walk out from a side street. "Excuse me," he said.
The woman looked up at Caden and Rilyn. She grabbed the boy and ran down the street. Rilyn looked around. He saw several people close their windows. "Caden," he said, "I don't think we're going to get much help from around here."
"There has to be someone who will help us." Caden pulled on Starlight's reigns and guided her to the center of the town.
In the center of Sharden, there was a fountain with a statue of three Dragon Knights. The fountain was dry. The foundation cracked. Moss and ivy grew over the statues. One of the statues was broken, missing it's head. One was missing an arm, and the third his sword. Caden brushed off an inscription on the key stone. It read, "We honor the brave Dragon Knights who guide and protect our fair town."
Caden stood up on fountain's basin wall. "Everyone!" he yelled. "We need your help."
A few people looked out windows and doors. Rilyn watched them. His hands dropped to under his cloak.
"We are on an urgent mission," he continued. "Innocent lives are at stake. We need to know where we can find the Dragon Knights."
Woman and children walked out. Rilyn gripped the handles to both of his swords.
Caden leans down to Rilyn. "I told you there would be people willing to help us." Caden felt a cold chill run down his spine. He shivered under the hot midsummer sun.
One elderly woman stepped forward. "If you're looking for the Dragon Knights, we don't want you in our town."
"They killed our sons and husbands," she said. "Taking them off to fight losing battles, stealing what they want, leaving us with only enough to survive."
"But the Dragon Knights protect us," Caden cried.
A young boy picked up a rock and threw it at Caden. He hit Caden in the head. Caden fell into the dry fountain basin. He hit his head against the base of the statues. He looked up, the world spun in front of him. He saw two Rilyns draw four curved swords. He saw a man walk out of a building. He had a dark shroud over his shoulders. He smiled. Caden stood up and grasped the back of his head. More people picked up refuse and threw it at Rilyn and Caden. Rilyn deflected what he could with his swords.
Caden looked at the man with the dark shroud. His vision cleared. He stood up and grabbed the stone sword off of Starlight. He held it up in one hand. "By this holy sword of the temple," he shouted. "Stop your attack and we'll leave peacefully!"
The crowd stopped and stared at him holding the stone sword without any difficulty. With that, Caden nodded to Rilyn, grabbed Starlight by the reigns, and they left. They walked past the man with the dark shroud. He laughed, showing black gums receding from his teeth.
Caden looked at him. "I'll be back to deal with you."