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."