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|Sypher's journey cont. Remembering the past.||
Chapter Five: A Spark of the Past
Nothing was said for the rest of the day until camp. Clover had fallen asleep when Chobyz talked about Orcs. The vision man had looked at the sleeping girl, then dropped back to wherever he was earlier. Camp was made in a large frozen clearing. Canvas tents were put up, ten in total. Samuel had reserved a tent for Clover and I, and I thanked him for it. He seemed to be pondering something important, so I left him alone. We had stopped traveling when it began to grow dark, and a minimal fire was lit to one side of camp, away from watchers.
It was fully dark before any of the soldiers went to sleep. Half a dozen men stood watch at excellent vantage points Samuel had directed them to. I realized Samuel was the leader in all respects to the group. He gave quick direction and short but concise explanations, which the soldiers nodded with understanding to. A soldier had come around the tents with food, and I took some bread and dried meat while thanking him. I ate some bread and half of the meat. It was dry and hard, but I did not mind. If I wanted water, I could certainly ask. Placing the food where Clover would see it if she woke up, I closed the tent flaps.
I dropped into a meditative state, wanting to analyze the discussion with Chobyz, and also recall my past so it would not bother me.
Chobyz had revealed that animals would break their natural cycles if Trolls were about. Trolls had to be hunters, then. Chobyz did not say anything about a motive. Possibly meat. Kill, then feast off the carcasses. Although Samuel had said indirectly that the slain towns were recent, it would make sense to stockpile food. More questions appeared. Why didn’t anyone stop the Trolls? Again, I hadn’t heard of Trolls, much less resistance against them. Orcs sounded pretty bad also.
Druids must be really powerful. I figured Chobyz thought I really would fight him, although I wouldn’t unless he attacked first. Recalling the vision he had shown us, I realized would be dead if he attacked. He had the ability to gather energy from the surrounding area, and unleash it with destructive results. The amount of power and the quick charge demonstrated great skill. I also suspected he was highly ranked amongst the Spirit Dragon Clan. But what had he seen in my past that would change his attitude to a soft one? I prepared myself for my past. It certainly wasn’t something I liked.
“Dad! Where are you?” a small, lonely voice echoed in the empty house. It was a little boy, with short dark hair and threadbare clothes. His gaze was fearful, and his eyes darted back and forth, searching. “Mom?” Unknown to him, a pair of dark eyes watched him from the shadows.
“Son,” a man wheezed. A bloody figure, hunched and torn, staggered into the kitchen. He collapsed as a sword pierced his chest from behind. The boy stared, frozen with shock. Two soldiers, laughing viciously, cut his father up. A sudden noise from the side drew their attention. It was the boy’s mother. She gasped as the sight, and could only scream as the soldiers cut the boy up. The pair of hidden eyes watched as the boy’s mother, too, was cruelly slain. The eyes followed the soldiers as they walked out laughing.
A single teardrop hit the kitchen floor, adding to the fluids that stained the ground.
I left home the next day, at the age of four. With only the clothes I wore that night, I ran away from my destroyed home. I joined a traveling blacksmith. He was cruel but agreed to let me stay with him as long as I worked. We arrived at his town, and I began to work. Day after day I collected wood, water, and helped drag pieces of metal around. I was beaten with a metal rod if he thought I wasn’t working hard enough. And to him, I never did. Repeated trips to the kind doctor, and some of his words convinced me I should leave, to find a better place. I was fourteen by the time I left. Ten years of working in a metal shop, including healing from beatings, and I had a thick coat of solid muscle. I had also learned how to read and write from a middle aged widow. That was my only escape from the shop. Unfortunately, the blacksmith would not give me time off, and I had to learn late at night.
Taking a large axe I had made, along with a wineskin filled with water, I stopped by the doctor’s before leaving. He gave me a loaf of bread, and some medicine for cuts. I was shocked to see him crying as I left. He directed me to a trail, which was marked by a rock with carvings. At the time I didn’t have the etiquette to thank him, and that was my greatest regret.
I traveled for fourteen days, one for each of my years. At the time I thought days were merely a new sun, and in some respects I was right. My meagre food supply ran out quickly, but I offered to chop wood for anyone with food. I was lucky, as I met several people on my journey. My axe was metal, and decimated any tree I picked. Many of those people I met thought I was much older, as my hardened face and coat of muscles led them to believe. I was smart enough not to reveal my age, or try at conversation.
I found Taria on the fifteenth day. I was quiet, except for a few horses being led into the stables. With my axe across my shoulder, I watched dumbfounded as the horses were looked over by an old man. I can remember being totally awed at the great beasts. I decided to see if anyone would require a woodcutter, which was I job I had heard of on the trail. Unfortunately there was no one who needed wood, as it was summer and the buildings were made of stone.
Discouraged, I spotted a trail across town and decided to travel it. It led me to a large hill, hidden from view. In a large clearing sat piles of stone, possibly from a destroyed house. In one week, I constructed a small house. I discovered that the trees held sap, and I collected much of it. My food supply had run out, so I ventured again into Taria to find some. I met the owner of the single restaurant. I offered to chop wood for his stoves, and in return I would be fed. He struck up a conversation, and was impressed to learn I had built a house on the nearby hill. He also laughed for several minutes when I told him I used sap to keep the stones together.
I asked about the cement of the buildings, and he offered to order me some for a longer work period. I figured it might be costly, so I asked where to find some. With a grin on his face, he demonstrated his knowledge by telling me about crushing and blending limestone, superheating it and adding sand, gravel and water. Confused, I accepted the longer work period.
I tore down my house and part way through rebuilding it, discovered I had to order more cement. The restaurant owner, after hearing my plight, was immensely interested in looking at what I had built. Seeing the half-complete structure he was amazed and ordered more cement for free.
“Sy?” Clover breathed. Instantly I dropped out of my trance, and looked at her.
“Yes?” I asked.
“You were glowing a few seconds ago,” she said. I realized she was starting at me with total awe.
“Really?” An idea came up, and I couldn’t resist. “What color?”
“Golden,” she said. The worry melted away, although I didn’t believe that I was glowing. As always after a successful meditation, I felt at ease. My mind was cleared of troubles, and my body ready to adapt to whatever situation that came up.
“Eat,” I said, wanting to change the subject. “I’m going to talk to Samuel.”
The moon was high in the sky, reflecting light down to earth. Most of the guards were sound asleep, and the rest of the camp silent as well. As my eyes scanned the camp, I saw two crouching figures by the fire. Samuel and Chobyz. As I approached they looked up in acknowledgement.
“Sentries are asleep,” I said. Samuel nodded; he knew but could not do anything. “I need to ask about the Trolls. You said they could ‘wear people’, am I right?” I asked. Samuel sighed and looked up into the sky.
“Yes,” he said. “Indeed they can.”
“The Byzu is going to ask how,” Chobyz said. I thought he was finding amusement in his prediction, but he was being serious.
“That I am,” I agreed.
“Trolls have their shamans, which have certain powers. Disguises are one of their many.” Samuel paused to pick up a stick and poke at the fire. “Once cast, the effects are permanent. Even if the Troll dies. And damn, I’d like them all to.”
Chobyz grunted in agreement.
“Your rune sword,” I said. Samuel looked up with the first guarded expression I had seen him wear. Chobyz seemed to laugh. Suddenly I noticed his eyes were an intense red. Samuel noticed it, too.
“Trolls,” he muttered. His voice grew to a roar. “Everyone up!” The camp became a noisy but efficient bustle as the soldiers prepared for battle.
“I’ll help if you promise not to ask questions, Byzu,” Chobyz offered.
“We’ll talk about that another time,” I countered. He snarled but shrugged his one shoulder. I was shocked to hear his words of power echo through the camp. “From the fury comes power. From the power strikes deliverance!”
I turned my attention to the treeline as three Troll archers aimed at Chobyz. Darting forth I realized I could not reach them before they fired. Still, I broke two bows and slashed an archer in half. I heard Chobyz’s laugh ring loudly from behind. The bowless archer leaped at me, a small dagger in its right hand. I grabbed its left wrist with my own left hand, and planted myself while turning my hip to generate power. The archer howled before it flew into a tree, bones cracking. The third archer didn’t even move.
“Die, damn Trolls!” the guard yelled, thrusting his spear into the Troll’s body. His partner deflected a mighty axe swing before delivering a decapitating smash with a sword. An arrow bounced off the guard’s breastplate, leaving a dent. The guard brought up his shield and advanced. A Troll leapt at him from the side with a sword in its hands, but was impaled by the guard’s partner. Something large flew past the guard, making him glance around. Hearing a thump from ahead, he was startled to see an ugly Troll archer slump to the ground, its head missing.
“What the hell?” his partner asked. “Don’t we know that guy?” The guard spun around, startled.
“The Troll? Are you outta your mind?” he demanded.
“No, not the Troll,” his partner said. “The guy who killed the Troll!”
Samuel waited quietly, his back to a large tree.
“ROOAARR!!” a beast bellowed. He jumped forward, spinning, as the tree he had been leaning on was ripped from the earth. The beast was over nine feet tall, and had an enormous upper body. Its muscles rippled eerily in the moonlight as it hefted the tree like a toy club. Two more beasts stood just behind the first, and three Troll warriors waited nearby, laughing.
“So you like it that way?” Samuel asked. “IGNITE!” His command activated the rune sword’s inner powers. It flared a fiery red and orange, and blasted the eyes with brilliant light. The Troll warriors managed to blink.
“Ha!” Chobyz laughed as the arrow bounced off his summoned beast. The Byzu had slain the three archers, so he turned around. Many soldiers were fighting against a multitude of Troll warriors. “I’m not gonna bother with those,” he muttered. A mighty groan was heard, and as Chobyz turned to see, his beast lunged forward. A Troll beast was lifting a boulder to throw into the throng of warriors. Chobyz’s beast resembled a bear in size, a lion in movement, and demonstrated the speed of a diving peregrine falcon as it struck. To say its strength was like an ox would be to call it a weakling. The Troll beast snapped in half, muscles and bone flying. Chobyz’s beast began dancing.
A brilliant red light flared from the direction that Samuel had gone. The Trolls and soldiers stopped and stared, dumbfounded. Chobyz had seen it before, and instead watched the Byzu defeat the Trolls that were fighting the soldiers. Not a soldier knew who killed the Trolls, but all were equally shocked to find their foe dead.
“Any injuries?” Samuel asked. One by one the footmen shook their heads.
“Tired, though. That was a strange battle,” Jackson said. He leaned on his spear.
“Yeah, like we turn back to find the Trolls dead, and we didn’t do anything,” one footman said.
“And that guy with the girl, I’m sure he killed an archer,” another footman added.
“Enough,” Samuel said, hiding his amusement. “Rest, for the Trolls will not come back tonight.”
“Disappointed that they didn’t mention the red light coming from your sword?” Chobyz teased.
“Very funny. No, I don’t care,” Samuel said. He looked to me. “Thank you for your help.”
“Not a problem,” I said. I had checked that Clover was fine, and she had heard the sounds but kept quiet. I had used a rag to wipe my blade, leaving a stained cloth for whoever’s it was. “Something’s a bit strange, though,” I said.
“Eh? What are you talking about?” Samuel asked.
“You said the Trolls would come in force. And your troops believe that. But consider this,” I said, glancing at Chobyz, “Trolls are the nemesis, in some respects. If they would be able to survive with humans, and kill them, they should be much more numerous.”
“The Byzu has a point,” Chobyz said. “We were not attacked by many, although enough to make your soldiers scramble. And I know the soldiers are good fighters.”
“I will think of that. Tell me if you have any other information. But for now, I’m going to get rest. We journey tomorrow,” Samuel said. I nodded goodnight to both of them and returned to my tent.
“What happened?” Clover asked as I entered the tent.
“Trolls came an attacked us,” I answered. She looked down at the ground for several moments. “I’m not sure I really want this, but I don’t want to be useless,” she said. I caught on quickly.
“So you want to learn how to fight? Is that it?” I asked softly. I was having a hard time imagining Clover with a blade in the thick of a bloody fight.
“I don’t want to get up close and personal, thank you, but I don’t want to be standing on the sidelines. Someone could get hurt, and I could probably have helped,” she said. I pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.
“When we have some time, I’ll teach you archery and traps,” I said. She hugged me back, still uncertain. “Don’t worry about it. Just go to sleep,” I whispered.
|The Path to December||The Path to December (Chp 3)|
|The Path to December (Chp6)||The Path to December (Chp 4)|