This is part 2A of my dragon Knight Chronicles, which I title "Growing Pains," as it deals with Bethel growing up and coming to terms with what she is. It was difficult for me to write this part (which is why it took so long) becuase I wasn't sure exactly what I really wanted to happen. Please leave your comment on what you liked and didn't like, I need some good avice on this part! Thanks, and enjoy!
Note: This is NOT a part of my new Dragon Knight Chronicles story as it stands now, but I worked so hard on it and liked it so much I didn't quite have the heart to delete it. As it stands, this is the original beginning to my story, but I decided to change directions a while ago, making this beginning obsolete. However, if enough people prefer this beginning over my new one then I just might reconsider things again. Enjoy!
The disturbing news of the destruction of Polaris Keep Swept through Amorrin like wildfire. The rumor was that the Markonians, after years of supposed peace, had finally revealed their true colors and had attacked out of blind jealousy and hatred. Once King Dartin had heard of the massacre, he immediately sent for his most decorated generals from across the provinces to discuss what action should be taken.
On that morning, so bright and clear outside the tall windows of the palace conference room, Dartin could only feel darkness and grief. Each of his generals sat with silent respect around the long table, waiting for him to begin. His attention, however, was at the empty chair at his right hand. The chair that had once belonged to his cousin Branson, the Duke of Polaris Keep.
He stared at the empty chair with sorrow filled eyes, a lone tear escaping down the creases of his careworn face to disappear in his thick white beard. Branson had spent his life preserving the peace between the Amorrins and the Markonians, and after fifty years of cooperation they had betrayed him! It was impossible to believe, but all evidence spoke it as truth. Almost in apology to his late cousin and most trusted friend, Dartin rested a hand on Branson’s armrest and took a deep, steadying breath as he prepared to destroy his friend’s life long legacy.
King Dartin rose to his feet, his face now as cold and stern as stone. “This travesty cannot stand!” he said, his powerful voice carrying throughout the hall. “The Markonians have destroyed the peace we’ve tried to keep for so long! Now is the time for action to avenge…”
Suddenly the front doors slammed open and the guards who were standing watch out in the hallway came sprinting in, their faces white as ash, and fell to their knees in front of the king.
“By the gods men!” Shouted Dartin. “What in the seven hells is the matter! You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”
“A g-ghost we did see sire!” stammered one.
“Twas Lord Branson! He is here! At the palace!” cried the other.
King Dartin looked down at them in scorn, the pain evident in his eyes. Was this some kind of sick joke? He’d be sure to have these two punished for their sheer stupidity!
“Lord Branson is dead!” he cried, more for his own acceptance then that of any others. His eyes glassed over as he continued his disciplining glare. “If I could shake the heavens for his safe return, then I would, but in these disturbing times…” Dartin’s strong reserve melted away, his hands trembling at his side. “…miracles have a way of abandoning us.”
“Now cousin, I find it hard to fathom that you don’t believe in miracles.” came a voice from the door and the entire assembly turned to gasp aloud at who they saw there.
Branson, Duke of Polaris Keep, assumed dead in a slaughter from which there were no known survivors, had returned, dressed in a simple peasants cloak and garments. Dartin’s eyes nearly popped from his head in disbelief and leaked tears of repressed joy lest this apparition before him turn out to be false.
“It is really me, my king!” said Branson. “and I am here to tell you that it is not the Markonians who are responsible for the deaths at Polaris Keep.”
It was then that King Dartin found the strength to move. In one swift motion he pulled Branson to him in a tight embrace, then held him out at arms length to look him over.
“I am glad then, old friend,” Dartin said, a wide smile shining from his beard “that the peace you’ve worked so hard to create will not be destroyed on my watch!” he then ushered Branson to the chair at his right side, and just as quickly as it had left, Dartin’s business like manner had returned.
“Now,” he began, having resumed his own seat. “You can explain your miraculous escape later, but first things first. You declare, from your own first hand account, that the attackers were not Markonian. Who then, pray tell, is our enemy?”
“It is impossible to say exactly.” Branson replied. “The army bore a strange insignia, a black serpent entwining a dagger. Most certainly a standard that I had naught even heard of till then.”
“But Certainly this mysterious army was not so grand that the Keeps guards couldn’t have killed even one so as to examine the body for its nationality?” interrupted General Marsche, a rotund man from the southern provinces.
“Indeed my guards has caused casualties of their own, General Marsche,” said Branson, his eyes becoming hooded and dark. “But the very morning after the attack, when we tried to examine one of them, as soon as the sun’s light touched his skin he evaporated into a cloud of mist!” Branson folded his hands in front of him. “Fellow generals, my Lord King, we are at war with a phantom army!”
Indeed General Branson was not far from the truth. Late that very night, Havoc, the dark mage of Kraken Island and the master of the Black Adder Knights, sat with steepled fingers in the leather armchair of his study, his face a picture of smooth patience. He didn’t bother to light the fireplace or any lamps. The darkness helped him to think. The only light came from the bluish glow cast by a crystal ball on a pedestal at his side and the constant flashes of lightning from outside the window.
“He is late…” said Havoc, his voice as smooth and emotionless as a madman’s lullaby.
“The meeting went later then expected.” replied a voice from the crystal ball. “But he just arrived and will be in here shortly.”
Havoc didn’t bother to respond, just sat and waited, staring into the cold, empty hearth. It was several minutes before there came a knock on his study door.
“Enter,” he said, opening the door with a wave of his hand. He didn’t need to turn to see who was standing there. “You are very late.” Havoc’s chair levitated an inch from the floor and turned towards the door. “I’m willing to forgive, however, if you have any information of value.”
General Marsche shuffled into the study, using every ounce of whatever nerve he had to keep himself from shaking. With a snap of his fingers, Havoc made the door slam shut, making Marsche jump with a very undignified yelp. Havoc almost grinned. He loved the affect he had on people, and even in the faint blue glow he could see that Marsche was sweating profusely.
“Is there something wrong, General Marsche?” said Havoc.
“No, no, its jus…uuhh, Trans-space travel doesn’t agree with me, I suppose.” Marsche pulled out a handkerchief and began dabbing at his forehead. “D-do you mind if we light some lamps? Its hard to talk in the dark.”
“As you wish” Havoc replied, and with a sweep of his hand the fireplace roared to life, blasting the room with its light. Marsche had to shield his eyes till they properly adjusted. The light, when he could see around the study, actually made him sweat more.
On the walls hung paintings, fiendish renditions of hell and the most terrifying of demons. In most there were people, all with expressions of anguish and terror, appearing to cry for a salvation that would never come. Various other forms of this “art” adorned the room, from miniature sculptures on the book shelves to embroidered tapestries. Marsche stared in horror at these abominations, unable to take his eyes off them. A rare smile lifted the corner of Havoc’s mouth.
“I’m always happy to see an admirer of my work, General Marsche, but that is not why you are here. Now…” Havoc’s gaze flashed to a strict and fierce glare. “What news from the war meeting?”
“Umm, Uh…yes, the war meeting…” Marsche tore his eyes from the gruesome paintings and to focus on Havoc’s own, which wasn’t any less terrifying. “It would seem, my lord, that we are faced with an unexpected turn of events. Lord Branson survived the attack and has informed the king of your warriors!”
“Branson survived?” said Havoc, his eyebrows raised in mild astonishment. “He proved more formidable then I expected.
“They know that it wasn’t the Markonians who attacked! Amorrin will not go to war! What are we going to do?!?” cried Marsche. Havoc rose to his feet and walked to the window behind his large desk, watching the lightning flash wildly outside.
“Pathetic blubbering fool.” Havoc replied, calm and collected. “A war between the Amorrins and the Markonians was just a bonus. My real objective was for something much smaller.”
“Smaller? B-but, my lord…our deal?” stammered Marsche. His face was now nearly dripping with sweat and he was using every ounce of control he had to keep his knees from shaking.
“Our deal?” mused Havoc. “Oh, you are referring to me giving you the Amorrin throne!” he chuckled. “Dear Marsche, my dear, dear, fat, idiotic Marsche. By the time my plans are fulfilled, there won’t be a scrap of Amorrin left! Now…” Havoc stared deep into the general’s terrified eyes, his irises beginning to glow purple. “on the side of my island you will find a tall cliff with a good number of jagged rocks at the bottom. You may jump off of it. Your services are no longer required.”
“N-no! P-please!” Marsche’s eyes took on a sick purple hue and his legs carried him out of the study door, then out of the castle and into the storm.
“Now that that’s settled…” Havoc sighed, re-taking his seat. “Have you been able to find it yet?”
“No, master. It appears to be shrouded.” replied the glowing orb.
“Damn!” he cursed, his pale hands clutching at his chair’s armrests. “It was that gold dragon! I could have found it at the Keep if not for him!”
“Do you suspect that the dragon has it then?”
“That does seem to be the most likely. I made certain that there would be no survivors, and I doubt that Branson would have the power to completely shroud it from your sight. No, we must find that dragon!”
“Be warned, Master. I foresee dire consequences upon slaying this dragon. His death shall release a force that no living being can destroy.”
This news did not falter Havoc for a second. He stared at the hearth, lost in thought. Then a small smile lifted the corner of his mouth.
“There are ways of getting around such prophecies. If this ‘unstoppable force’ interferes with my plans for the world, then I will take care of it. Now, find me that dragon!”
“Yes, Master.” replied the orb with a slight sigh. Havoc took no notice, but returned to the window and stared silently at the eternally raging storm. His plans were ripening.
In the ensuing years, Bethel grew from a small baby to an energetic young child. From the moment she was born Baldor knew that she was different, but the older she became the more he learned how different she really was…
One evening, as the sun was setting behind the peaks in the small valley, three year old Bethel was scaling the very side of the mountain, her little hands and feet crushing through the stones as if they were stale bread as she climbed. She giggled more and more the higher she went, her wild tangle of red hair flapping in the wind.
She crawled up onto a ledge and was about to leap up to a higher crevice when a high pitched roar tore through the silence. Perched on a nearby boulder was a very large and very temperamental mountain lion who looked upon young Bethel as its next meal.
“Hi Kitty!” cried Bethel. The enormous cat crouched low, its ears flat on its head, then leaped down onto the ledge, stalking towards her on padded feet. Bethel met the predator with open arms.
“You’re a BIG kitty!” she said, but before she could pet the ‘big kitty,’ it swiped at her, tearing through her little blue dress and leaving deep bleeding gashes on her side.
Any normal child would have fallen over, screamed, cried, anything. But Bethel was not a normal child. She looked down at the gashes and her torn dress, then glared at the mountain lion. The mountain lion, unperturbed by this apparent lack of fear, crouched down and shrieked loudly as it made to pounce.
It leaped, claws outstretched and teeth open wide for the kill, but Bethel’s fist, her tiny fist that struck with the force of a stone bludgeon, made a swift hammer strike to the top of its head, stunning it and sending it tumbling down.
“Bad Kitty! Very bad kitty!” she yelled, scolding the unconscious feline.
Meanwhile, down in the valley, Baldor was searching for Bethel. It was almost bath time, so of course he knew she would disappear. There were just far too many places to hide in this valley. He was searching some nearby caves when he heard the mountain lion’s first bloodthirsty cry echoing down from the nearest mountain side. Face pale, Baldor dashed off at bullet speed. When he reached the mountain’s edge, he leaped up the rocky side and scaled it at an inhuman speed, never once breaking his stride.
Another shrieking roar tore through the silence, urging Baldor on to even more impossible speeds. It wasn’t long until he reached the ledge that held Bethel and the mountain lion and witnessed the spectacular event that happened next.
The lion lay at Bethel’s feet, apparently stunned. Bethel reached down, grabbing the lion from underneath, an lifted it over her head, supporting it with her own miniscule form. Then, with a tiny yell, she hurled it into the sky nearly to the peak of the mountain. It cried and shrieked and flailed all the way to the top, then fall all the way back to the ledge. Landing clumsily on its feet, its short hair on end, it took one look at the fierce little red-head and retreated down the mountain side with a frightened whine.
“Bethel!” cried Baldor, running towards his daughter. “W-what happened?”
“The bad kitty scratched me!” she said, looking up at him with those strange gold eyes. She turned to show him her torn dress and the gashed. “See? It ruined my pretty dress!”
Baldor picked her up. “Well…lets get you home and fix you up then, shall we?” and together they made their way down the mountain side and back to the castle.
Baldor’s amazement at his daughters strength never ceased, and the more she grew the stronger she became. When she was six years old, Bethel invented a new game involving the tossing of large boulders at various rock piles she had made. At seven, when Bethel refused to eat any fruits or vegetables and Baldor attempted to scare her into eating them by telling her about a disease called ‘scurvy,’ she ran to the nearest apple tree, tore it up by its roots, and devoured nearly every apple on it with many gags of protest, but still forcing them down her own throat.
It was easy to see that Bethel was in many ways more dragon inside then human, yet, at the same time, Baldor could see a distinct part of her that grasped the mildness of humanity. Some times, after she had been out all day, running around the valley, being the overall savage, playful youngling that she was, she would come into the castle and turn into an almost entirely different person. She was quiet, serene, and even thoughtful.
One evening, Baldor was searching the castle for her. It was nearly her bedtime, so, as usual, he expected her to run off. He checked the scullery, even the armory (Which he always kept locked, but she was known to snap chains), but so far she was nowhere in the castle. There was only one more place to check, and Baldor could have kicked himself for not thinking of it earlier.
On the far side of the castle was a long and unimpressive hallway that ended at a large stone arch, which was, infact, completely walled up with solid bricks. Baldor stretched his arms and summoned his rarely used dragon abilities, then pushed on the stone wall with all of his strength. It slid inward several feet, then hit a catch that pulled it sideways, revealing an enormous torch lit cavern filled with piles pf gold and jewels. Baldor’s treasure horde!
This was Baldor’s whole accumulation of wealth from the days when he traveled the world on his life-quest, a journey that every gold dragon must take once they come of age so as to better the world. There were precious stones from Tisland (a gift from their king for rescuing his son during a storm at sea), shining emeralds from the Medsteam Islands (appreciation for his assistance during a terrible famine), and there, sitting on a silk cushioned throne with a large leather bound book in her lap, was Bethel, his greatest treasure.
“Bethel, it is nearly your bedtime.” he said, finding a path to her through the piles of gold. Softly, the sound of rushing water could be heard where the waterfall his the cavern’s second entrance behind the valley waterfall further down a side tunnel.
“I don’t wanna go to bed yet, daddy! I’m just getting to the best part!” she said. Baldor smiled. He knew that she didn’t know how to read yet, but was making up the stories based on what she saw in the illustrations, and that the book she held was indeed one of large and elaborate pictures.
“Well then…” he said, picking her up, book and all, and then taking a seat on the cushioned throne with Bethel on his lap. “Why don’t you tell me the story?”
Bethel looked at her father, then looked at the book, and said “Mmmhhh…no.” and deftly snapped the book shut and dropped it on the floor. “You tell ME a story!”
Baldor laughed. “What story do you want to hear?”
“About when you were a dragon!” gazing up at him, her gold eyes shining with excitement.
“I’m still a dragon, Bethel. I only choose to look human, we talked about that.”
“No, I mean when you flew and helped people!”
“Oh,” Baldor replied. “Well, there are many stories I could tell you about those days.” Baldor thought for a second, then knew exactly what story to tell her. “How about I tell you about my very first life quest?”
“Yeah, tell that one, tell that one!” she hopped up and down on his lap.
“Very well, but you have to promise me that afterwards you’ll go to bed like a good girl. I still haven’t fixed that hole in the wall from last night.” Baldor said, looking down on her with all seriousness. She nodded her head furiously, urging him to begin.
“Well, once upon a time, not two months after I had set out to begin my life quest journey, I was flying north when a fierce and sudden snow storm hit. Being young and foolish at the time, I thought I could fly through it, but it very quickly proved to be too much for me and I ended up crash landing right in the middle of a vast mountain range. I was fortunate enough to find a warm cave to weather it in not far from where I landed. The storm lasted nearly two weeks, but I was living quite comfortably in my cave and there were more then enough mountain goats for me to eat, so I was perfectly prepared to spend the whole winter there if I had too. Which, actually, I ended up doing anyways…”
“Do mountain goats taste good?” Bethel interrupted.
“Yes, actually, they are quite delicious.” Baldor replied, slightly curious as to why she would ask. Bethel looked off thoughtfully for a second and Baldor nearly burst out laughing as he rightly guessed what was going on in her head.
“So…” he continued. “It was a pretty quiet and uneventful winter. Mostly I just sat and thought about what my life-quest would be, where in the world I was needed most. It was mildly frustrating, because, for the most part, there were very few problems to be had, or at least nothing that the humans couldn’t work out for themselves. Not long after, though, I received my answer.”
“ I remember it was a clear, frosty day, and I was taking in some fresh air outside when all of a sudden the sky went dark. Above me was a swarm of griffons, so massive it blocked out the sun. This, I knew, was very unusual, but inwardly assumed that there must be some natural reason for this major migration. That is, until I saw the entire swarm convene on a particular spot between the mountain, then I felt the need to investigate.
I took off and followed them, keeping as low and out of site as possible. Then I came upon their target. It was a small and attractive valley, with a river and a beautiful (though at this time frozen) waterfall adorning it like diamonds. And at the head of the valley, next to the waterfall, was a castle, a dwarfin keep infact, and the griffons were heading right towards it. From where I perched, I could see the dwarves of the keep trying to fend off the griffons. They used crossbows, catapults, even ballistas, but there were far too many. They were being overrun.”
“I immediately rushed to the aid of the dwarves, taking down griffons by the hundreds with my flames and felling even more with my own claws. I fought and fought until exhaustion overcame me, and still I fought. Looking around at the griffons still swarming on the valley, though, I might as well have done nothing. More kept swooping in to replace the fallen and even more came to supplement their numbers. It seemed impossible, Bethel, impossible!”
“What did you do?!?” Bethel cried, her eyes wide and her hands clasped over her chest.
“Brute strength wasn’t working, so I had to fight smarter! Griffons, while naturally aggressive, rarely orchestrate sieges such as this without some kind cause behind it. I had to find that cause. At that moment, out of my peripheral vision, I saw a black shape amongst the snow white valley. Looking closer, I saw that it was a man, covered in furs and animal skins and performing some kind of dance while waving what appeared to be a griffon’s talon in the air. Immediately I swooped down, and, very magnificently I might ad, smashed into the snow with a mighty roar! I swear, he screamed like a babe when he saw me, and even more so when I trapped him in my claws and ate the griffon talisman strait out of his hand, nearly taking a few fingers of his along with it.”
“Immediately upon the destruction of the talisman, the griffons, realizing where they were and what they were doing, began to disperse in panic and the skies were soon clear again. A small procession of dwarves then came down from their castle. Among them was their king, Dwarf Lord M’ortin, the keeper of the valley.”
“M’ortin?” murmured Bethel, recognizing the name and slowly making the connection.. Baldor knew that she would make the connection eventually, and so went on with his story.
“M’ortin told me of how this man, a shaman, was once the holy man of the valley before the dwarves exiled him for attempting to steal some of their most prized crafted treasures. He had vowed revenge against the dwarves and had held their castle under siege for almost two years. With their excellent defenses and numerous resources, they had managed to survive, but they were weakening fast and their food stores were now all but depleted. If not for me, King M’ortin said, his whole clan would have become extinct.”
“I stayed with the dwarves for the remainder of the winter as an honored guest. Sometimes I flew to whole other mountain ranges to get food and supplies from other clans to help supplement their meager supply. Even without the griffons and being under siege, it was a hard winter for them, but I helped all I could. When spring finally came, King M’ortin came to me with news. He was going to take what was left of his people to join his brother’s clan in the south, and with his deepest gratitude I was given the castle and a portion of its treasures for saving them.”
“Of course!” cried Bethel. “Castle M’ortin! This is the dwarf’s old home!”
Baldor laughed “I knew you would figure I out eventually!”
This night of story telling was the beginning of a tradition for Bethel and Baldor. From then on, Baldor told Bethel numerous stories of his adventures and exploits, of all the places he visited, of all the people and creatures he had met. Bethel absorbed it all with wide eyed fascination, completely taken in by the wondrous things her father had done.
She was so amazed by the world as Baldor told it that she had even taken to looking up books in M’ortin’s vast library on whatever subject the story of the night before was. One evening Baldor told her about a journey he took to a whole other continent in the south, to a country he described as an “ocean of sand” named Cregia, where the people built vast monuments and statues. The next day he found her sitting with a whole pile of books next to her all on Cregia. She ooooed and awwwed at the artists depictions of all the structures, the people’s fashion, the copies of their cultural art.
“Its just so amazing,” she had told Baldor when she was a little older. “How people all around the world can be the same, yet so different!”
Baldor was immensely proud of his daughter’s curiosity and encouraged it constantly, but one day, in the middle of Bethel’s sixth year, she asked him a question that he wasn’t quite sure how to answer.
“Father,” she began , finding him inspecting their small vegetable path one afternoon. “Where is my mother?”
Throughout her life, Bethel had never really thought much about where she had come from. All there ever really was for her was her father and their solitary valley, and she was perfectly content with just that. But in perusing the world through books and her father’s stories, she realized that other people had something that she knew little about. Mothers.
Baldor was stricken for a second, but only a second. Not a day went by that he didn’t think about his Beyonna, and deep down he always knew that Bethel would ask about her sooner or later.
“Why don’t we find a place more comfortable so we can sit and talk, eh?” he replied.
They found a large tree not far from the garden and sat beneath in its shade while Baldor told her that days story. He began with the massacre at Polaris Keep, where he met Beyonna defending her home from the dark invaders. They later went into the treasure room, where, from a small box that lay inconspicuously in plain sight site, Baldor produced the torn insignia of the black serpent and the dagger. He told of how he had saved Beyonna, and how they fell in love and how he completely renounced his dragon heritage to be with her. Bethel listened in joyous amazement. Her mother sounded like such a fantastic woman! Then came…the difficult part.
Baldor had every intention of telling Bethel everything that happened, after all she deserved to know the whole truth. But there…looking in the innocent eyes of his beloved daughter, those strange eyes that had unintentionally had his wife murdered, he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. So, rather then drive a knife of guilt into his daughter’s heart, he took it for himself and lied.
“She died…” he said. “Shortly after giving birth to you. She became…very sick. In my…in my grief I didn’t know where else to take you but here.” He couldn’t look his daughter in the face without feeling ashamed at himself. How could he have lied to her so blatantly?
Bethel, meanwhile, didn’t really know what to think or how to feel about the situation. She was old enough to have at least made the assumption that something of that sort had occurred, but now that it was finalized by her father’s words it all seemed terribly unfair! Why was it that her mother had to die when so many others got to keep theirs? What resulted was a deep, hollow emptiness that swelled inside her, forcing out tears for what might have been.
She buried her head in Baldor’s chest and sobbed uncontrollably while he wrapped his arms around her, wanting nothing more then for her pain to go away.
For some time afterwards, Bethel seemed numb, slow, and reclusive. Several times Baldor tried to get her to talk about it, but she would simply shrug him off and say that she was fine. In the end, Baldor decided that Bethel’s feelings towards her mother’s death was something that she needed to work out on her own, yet he always made sure that he was close by incase she ever needed him.
In time, it seemed that Bethel had reached an acceptance. Yet, below the surface, there was a barely perceptible deep sense of grief that would never fade.
And so Bethel’s childhood went on, full of the familiar games, stories, and explorations. By the time she was of the ripe age of eight years, however, the valley became an all too familiar place. Her mind and imagination began to soar outward, out to the wide world beyond the mountains, where there were kingdoms, creatures, and (even more exciting to Bethel) people that she had only known through pictures and her father’s stories.
One night, while Baldor tucked her in after their night time story, Bethel asked “Daddy, when will I be old enough to begin my own life quest?”
“What? Life quest?” he stammered, taken aback by this question.
“Yeah, I wanna do like what you did! I wanna see all of the different contries and help people! When do you think I could meet people, daddy?”
“Meet…people?” Baldor looked at his daughter’s eyes, the mark that would brand her forever as different everywhere she would go. Humans wouldn’t understand. They would hunt her, harm her, maybe even kill her like…well, he didn’t even want to think about it. What he was left with was a conundrum with no foreseeable solution. He knew deep down that he couldn’t keep her locked up in this valley, not after he had already told her so much about the world outside, but he also couldn’t bear to lose her to the hatred and bigotry that ruled it.
“Bethel, you must promise me something.” he began, “You must promise…that you’ll never leave this valley.”
“You mean you want me to stay here forever and ever?” she replied, confused.
“No, not forever. I mean…I want you to stay here until I say that it’s ok, that its safe for you. Its just that…its dangerous outside our valley and…”
But daddy, I’m strong enough!” said Bethel “I fight bears, mountain lions, and…
“There’s more to it than that, Bethel.” Interrupted Baldor. “Out there is a world that you wouldn’t understand, one that wouldn’t understand YOU.”
“What do you mean it wouldn’t understand me?” Bethel asked, even more confused.
“Nothing sweetheart, nothing. Just…promise me, please.” Bethel didn’t say a word, but lay there staring at him, her eyes rapt in confusion. Her father had never told her that a place was forbidden before. And why was the world all of a sudden so dangerous when up till now he made it sound like a wonderful place full of adventure? She stared up at him from her pillow, her eyes focused in inquisition. She still didn’t understand, but despite her confusion said “I promise.”
Baldor knew that this issue was far from resolved, but he at least was able to have bought more time. Bethel was far too young to know the truth anyways, he told himself. It’s better to wait till she’s older. And with that to ease his mind, Baldor slept peacefully that night.
Bethel’s mind, however, was far from at peace. What was so dangerous out there that her father feared so much? Surely he had told her everything in his stories, and there was nothing in her young mind that she felt she couldn’t handle.
The next afternoon, Bethel sat in a tree and stared at the southern border of the valley. Eventually she leaped down from the tree, and after a hesitant glance back at the castle, began to walk south towards the valley gate.
She had to see for herself what was out there, she told herself. It wouldn’t be breaking her promise if she just looked.
She crossed the valley, went through the thin pass, and stood before the solid stone gate. The world lay beyond, and all she had t do was open the door. Her hand shook slightly as she raised it to rest on the wall, her imprint of Baldor’s bloodline opening the door.
It was larger than Bethel ever imagined. The sky stretched on forever over hills and trees, and beyond that she knew was so much more. Whole lands that she had before only heard of in her father’s stories now lay before her feet, if could only walk far enough. Her eyes wide and her mouth slightly agape in astonishment, Bethel took a seat in the doorway to gape at the vast landscape.
She didn’t know long she sat there before she finally noticed it. Far below in the foothills, rising on the far end of small forest, was a thin line of smoke that could only be coming from a camp fire, and where there was a campfire there had to be people!
Bethel’s curiosity, along with her fascination of the un-known, overwhelmed her, and drove all thoughts of her father and her promise out of her mind as she began the trek down from the mountains to investigate.
She passed through the foothills and across the small amount of plain with extraordinary speed for one of her size and age. Once she reached the edge of the woods, on the opposite edge of the side with the camp, she climbed up the nearest tree to pass through the rest of the way concealed by the leaves, leaping and climbing from branch to branch as silently as a squirrel. Then the woods ended, and she gazed for the first time upon people.
There were four of them, two young boys (one around her own age, the other obviously older), a man, and a woman. They were all brightly dressed, wearing nearly every color in the rainbow, and the woman’s skirt was adorned with tiny, thin plates of brass that jingled as she walked. They also had a large wagon, equally colorful, that was pulled by two very big and very strong looking horses.
As she watched, Bethel saw the man (who was reclining in a collapsible chair made from thick wooden limbs and animal skins) open a leather case at his side and retrieve a stringed instrument and a bow. He began to play, and the most beautiful and uplifting music that Bethel had ever heard drifted up to her ears. It was all she could do to keep herself from dancing and giving herself away.
The youngest boy, apparently inspired by the music, then opened a pouch tied to his bright red sash, took out three colorful balls, and began to juggle them. Once he got the rhythm, he even began to dance. These people must be traveling performers, Bethel though to herself. And really good ones, too!
The music was moving faster, and the juggling boy’s dance was becoming even more lively. He laughed as he danced, enjoying his own show, but his success was cut short as the older boy, wearing a mischievous smile, suddenly stretched out his leg in the younger’s path, causing him to trip and tumble to the ground.
He landed with an audile “oomph!” and the balls flew and scattered every which way, including into the large cooking pot where the woman was busy stirring some kind of delicious smelling broth.
“Zander!” she cried as she fished the ball from the soup. “How am I supposed to cook supper with you dropping your toys in it, hmmm?”
“It was Jethro, mother! He tripped me on purpose!”
“I did not! You’re just clumsy!” retorted the older.
“Enough, from the both of you!” shouted the woman, brandishing her wooden spoon. “Jethro, come here and watch this soup for me while I fetch some vegetables from the wagon. Zander, we need more wood for the fire. Come on now, up with the both of you!” The two brothers groaned in unison as they got up to begin their assigned tasks.
“Mind yer mother, boys.” Grinned the man as he leaned back in his chair and again fit the instrument to his chin. Before he could play a single note, however, the wooden spoon came down and rapped him sharply on the fore-head.
“Don’t think that you’re getting off so easy, you lazy lout!” scolded the woman. “There’s potatoes that need peelin’! and with that she grabbed him by the ear and hauled him off to the wagon.
Bethel’s attention, however, was on the younger boy. Following his mother’s orders, he went into the woods in search of firewood. She held her breath as he passed right under her tree, but as his gaze was fixed on the ground for branches and the like, he remained unaware of her curious gaze. As silent as a ghost, she crept from limb to limb, following the boy on his chore. Eventually they journeyed so far into the woods that the fire and wagon were well beyond sight, and the boys arms were becoming very full with fire wood.
Zander noticed a particularly good sized branch under the tree that Bethel was hiding in, and, with some difficulty, attempted to wrench it from the roots and mulch with his free hand. Bethel climbed higher, desperate not to be seen, but she didn’t take good enough stalk of her footing and slipped on a mossy limb. She plummeted with a gasp, crashing through countless leaves and branches before she landed hard on top of the unfortunate boy.
“OUCH! What the…Jethro, is that you?!? Get off me!” He grunted with his face in the dirt.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to fall on you!” cried Bethel as she scrambled to her feet. “Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m not hurt…” Zander grumbled as he got to his feet and started brushing the dirt from his pants. “but what were ya…” he cut off, noticing for the first time the person he was talking to, especially those strange golden eyes.
|20 Jan 2010|| Glo 'the Bug' Bowden|
*first comment grin*
I LOVE this installment. Love love LOVE it! Bethel was already a really interesting character to me, and it’s so intriguing to see her as a curious child. I can imagine her sense of wonder at hearing her daddy’s stories. And it would be amazing to see her go off on her own life quest. In fact, I’m suspecting that she shall, and it will eventually bring her face to face with this nasty Havoc character.
Wouldn’t that be amazing if we all went on a life quest? Of course, having superhuman strength or dragon powers would help that, I’m sure.
Anyway - nice cliffy at the end there. I’m wondering just how little sir Zander there is going to react to her. This is going to turn out to be either a very good or very bad experience. Allison L. Miller
replies: "I’m so glad you like it! This part actually took me a long time to write because I was having some "characterization" issues with Bethel. I wanted her to be a strong, almost savage kid (half dragon and all that) but at the same time I wanted her to be a KID kid, lol. Just wait, things will get even more interesting for her, and it shouldn’t take as long as this last one for the next installment, lol. How is your newest piece working out? Stricken with inspiration yet? I am anxious to read your next work of genius!"