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|Sypher's journey cont (part 3)||
I admit I was anxious to see the vision man, as I had heard stories and legends about people who could see events in the past, near future and far off into time. Those people were always thought mad and soon killed. Perhaps here, under Samuel’s leadership they had found a use for a vision man. Or the vision man had found a use for Myneham.
The room was a strange sight. There were boards separating the small room into two small parts. The boards stretched from the floor to the ceiling. On the left side, a lamp sat on a simple wooden stool, its light restrained to half the room. The right side had no bed, but a three-foot high platform that resembled a table. I could see the cross-legged form of an oddly shaped man as more light poured into the room. Sitting cross-legged, the vision man seemed to flow. The wiry man from the room across the hall muttered something about how boring the job of a doctor was, and shut the door quietly but carelessly. Ignoring Samuel’s sharp look, he stepped forward rapped on the platform.
“Samuel’s here,” he said, his voice scratchy and without emotion. He walked back to the door, and turned. “Five minutes, he needs to be fed soon,” he said. Light flooded in again as the door opened, then shut.
Reverently, Samuel approached the platform.
“Friends, I see,” a feral voice shot out of the darkness. “Put out the lamp and I will provide illumination.” I tensed, not wanting to be in the dark with someone with that kind of…hungry voice. Clover pulled closer towards me and I put my arm around her for support. Obediently, Samuel extinguished the flame. A moment later, a reddish glow began to pulse from the vision man’s form. We all held our breaths as it rose slowly, still pulsing, and then burst into nothingness. Blinking hard to clear my eyes, I realized I could see the room as if it was swamped in light, yet the room was pitch black. Samuel was equally new to the experience, judging by the way he looked around. Clover gasped and squeezed me tightly. Wanting to find the source of surprise, I looked at the vision man and almost gasped myself.
Sitting, clothed in many animal fur robes was a bald, blue skinned creature. It was powerfully built, with thick arms and muscular legs. A tattoo on the forehead of the creature depicted a symmetrical, intricate symbol of power. Colored beads hung off its green beard in a definite pattern, possibly another symbol of power. It had large, bushy green eyebrows, and underneath shone pure white eyes that resembled snow so greatly I almost thought I was looking outside. A long, beak-like nose jutted out, and underneath it, a wide feral mouth. I was sure it concealed sharp teeth. Even though I had never seen this kind of creature before, something seemed missing. Clover placed it before I did.
“His arm,” she breathed. He was missing his right arm. Samuel stood by the platform, unphased. His posture indicated he had seen the creature’s features before. Even when I took my eyes off the creature, it continued to flow. Not flowing anywhere, but simply flowing.
“Are you done gawking at me like crows?” it asked, amused.
Samuel cleared his throat. “Chobyz, please have respect for these two. They have saved a horse, and have come from a recent deserted town-“
“Yes, Prince! I know about that, do you think I’m human?” Chobyz gave a howl of laughter. Prince? I thought. Samuel is a prince? “I also know that the male slew a bear,” the creature said. “The bear had cubs to feed. I will give respect to those who are capable of respect, not when you command me to.”
There was a heated silence as I waited for one of them to speak again. But I was surprised to hear Clover speak. “What happened to Taria?” she asked.
“Taria?” Chobyz questioned quickly, a teasing note in its tone. I hardened my glare, but the creature seemed to take pleasure at negative attention. “Oh yes, that little place over there,” Chobyz paused, rapidly blinking. He blinked five quick times before keeping its white eyes open for several moments. “Well, it got hit, just like the others,” he growled.
“What happened to the others?” I asked. A ferocious snarl formed on the vision creature’s face. Suddenly the beads on its beard rattled violently, startling everyone. There was another flash of bright red, and I could not see for several seconds.
What was before my eyes was more terrifying than anything I could imagine. The first thing I could make out was a huge, hulking beast of muscle and bone holding onto something a tenth of its size. The beast had two arms that hung from its shoulders to the floor, and legs as thick as a large tree. As I studied the beast, it tore what it was holding in half. My view of the beast widened, and I could see the terrain. Suddenly a human ran onto the scene, closely pursued by a blue skinned creature with the colors and dress of Chobyz. The human was an adult female, running and stumbling towards the beast.
A moment later, six axe and sword-wielding warriors charged the female. The warriors were also blue skinned, but ran with a hunched swagger that was sickeningly familiar. The archers at Taria! I thought in surprise. The creature that resembled Chobyz managed to reach the human, and kick her legs out. I realized that it was stopping the human from being crushed by the beast. It turned, crouched, and pulled back its right fist to the hip. The left hand was outstretched, pointing at the charging warriors. I could see a distortion coalesce near the withdrawn hand. A moment later, the distortion rippled violently and bright colors began to swirl around the distortion. Darting along the perimeter of the distortion, each color left a trail of glowing light. It was a mesmerizing sight that would camouflage the potential of the attack.
Suddenly the creature released a punch that blew the warriors apart, their limbs and weapons flying. The creature had gathered energy, and released it offensively. Another scream came from the woman. The creature turned its head to look, but it had no chance. The beast lunged forward releasing a deafening bellow than knocked down the creature. Two horrid-looking arms reached for the creature, and it managed to scramble away. But the stunted fingers extended curved claws, and it closed on the arm with tremendous power. Suddenly the beast’s head exploded in blue flames, spewing flaming flesh onto the ground.
The area of view expanded again. This was all taking place in a town. Bodies littered the ground, human and blue warrior. In the background, another beast was crushing two humans with its great arms. An archer rode atop the beast, and was reloading its bow.
The woman screamed again as the beast lunged forward, its head still on fire. The creature was about to be crushed when a glinting metal object struck the beast in the throat. Thin and deadly, five more metal arrows made their mark in the beast’s hide. Finally the beast was brought to a halt as a long spear rammed through its body.
Several soldiers, sporting full armor, shields, and spears lunged forward together to defeat the beast for good. A high-pitched scream split the air, and an overwhelming sense of despair flooded my senses. Just beyond the now-slain beast, a little boy tore across the town. A third beast chugged clumsily after it, holding a body like a rag doll in each hand.
“Charge!” someone yelled. Four magnificent black horses shot towards the beast in a line. On each horse, an armoured knight held a long sword and an unmarked shield. The beast stopped and regarded the new threat. The boy screamed again. The beast, not wanting to give up its prey, fired. A human body flew headlong, striking the boy. A roar of rage echoed through the town as the horses came within striking distance. A mighty sweep of both arms destroyed two horses. The other knights managed to manoeuvre to the side, but they quickly turned around to battle the beast.
One of the knights turned to the side to strike the beast, and the other one leapt off his horse and jammed his sword into the beast. The beast spun around, causing the mounted knight’s horse to sidestep away. The swordless knight defended himself skilfully, deflecting powerful strikes with the shield. The footmen charged past the fighting knights, and closely behind followed six archers.
The vision stopped abruptly, and the pounding of my heart was drumming in my ears.
“It is happening again,” Samuel said with hatred. “The Trolls are doing it again.” The vision man had his head pointed to the ceiling, his face creased with intense pain. His eyes were shut, and tears trickled down his face, red against blue.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Samuel. He regarded me for a moment, communicating much without words.
“He is feeling the pain,” he said. A sob turned my attention to Clover, who sat on the ground, shaking. I motioned to Samuel I would take her outside, and he nodded in response.
Outside in the corridor, I held her tightly and protectively. I was sure she had seen what I had. I knew I couldn’t say anything to comfort her, and I sure didn’t try. The doctor exited from his room, his disapproving gaze on us once more. Instead of a negative response, I asked, “Is there a spare room?” He nodded as if he expected me to know, but pointed down the corridor, “Anything past twenty-three is free and unused.” Giving a gracious nod, I swept Clover up and carefully carried her down the corridor. Picking room twenty-seven, I pushed it open with my foot. Upon seeing it empty I placed Clover onto the bed, and shut the door. She whimpered softly, reliving the vision once more. I cradled her gently until she fell asleep.
The vision left a mighty scar on my mind. It was so real, the sounds and sights! So many bodies strewn along the ground, each in their own bloody grave. I was sure that the soldiers were from Myneham, and the blue creature protecting the woman was Chobyz. How else could he produce such an acute vision? Suddenly a memory of the Academy sprung up.
The man at the front of the room was very tall, and thick with muscle. His skin was tanned and scarred, giving the appearance of a slashed animal hide. He paced with a deadly grace, his feet making no noise but his words as loud as an explosion.
“Never, ever join the ranks of the infantry. You will regret it.” His single lightning blue eye swept our ranks with absolute authority. The other eye was missing, and a patch of cloth covered the socket. On the patch was a symbol representing the Academy gleamed proudly, a black lion. “A human who witnesses slaughter of any kind is no longer human. The infantry combats their opponent using toe-to-toe clashes. Assassins wait in the shadows of their opponents, hidden and invisible. Then they strike.” He shook his head in self-disapproval. “Once I watched infantry backed by siege attack a stronghold. They succeeded, but every single person in that stronghold was slain. I walked through the hold the next day. Past the bodies. Past the bodies of little children. Past the body of an old woman. There was so much death in that one place.”
Wait, I thought. What does this have to do with what I just saw? Struggling to come to some kind of resolve between the two, I fell into a restless sleep.
My senses went on full alert. I was sitting on the bed, my back against the wall. Clover was slumped against me, my arm around her. Clearing my mind, I tried to escape the feeling of death. Having witnessed it vividly did not help at all. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I didn’t notice Samuel until he stood in front of me. Startled, I looked up. Samuel wore a polished cuirass, knee-high greaves, and his helmet rested in his right hand. He was completely covered in armor except his head. A thick sword, dangling in its sheath, nearly touched the ground. He held no shield, but attached to his left shoulder was a large metal plate. His face was serious, and I knew something was wrong.
“We’re going to leave this place, and travel to the capital. You have one hour,” he announced. Clover stirred in my arms, and I stroked her hair to calm her. Samuel dropped his tone a notch. “I’ve left you a horse. We need the other two, I’m sorry. You can come with us if you like,” he said.
“We’ll come. How far away is the capital?” I asked. I certainly wasn’t going to stay here if the town was going to be abandoned. Clover and I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
“Far enough that we will leave very soon. And there’s bad news,” Samuel paused, watching for reaction, “Our scouts have reported that the Trolls are coming again. In force.” He let the implications sink in.
“We’ll be out in five minutes. Could you have our horse ready?” I asked. Samuel nodded briefly, then turned and walked out. I waited until his footsteps were gone. “Clover, dear,” I whispered. She moaned softly, but a moment later her eyelids fluttered open. Turning to look at me, she glanced up once, and then dug her head into my shoulder. “Clover, we need to leave,” I said. She surprised me by standing without speaking. I rose beside her and led her outside. It was still dark outside, not yet dawn.
We mounted our horse, which was fitted with a longer saddle. The soldier holding our horse handed me the reins then scrambled off before I could thank him.
“We’re in danger, aren’t we?” Clover half-stated, half-asked. I nodded solemnly. Clover sat in front of me on the horse, looking around the town anxiously.
“We’re going to the capital city with Samuel. They’re all leaving this town.” I informed her. “And the Trolls are coming.” I felt her body tense in front of me.
“Those beasts?” she asked. I gently rubbed her shoulders to calm her.
“Yes, dear. Those beasts,” I said quietly. “Will my sword make you uncomfortable?” She laughed softly, and pointed at the gathering soldiers.
“Those spears make me uncomfortable. Just don’t cut me,” she answered. I gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze and drew my battle sword. It flashed quickly into the air, then down at my right side. I hoped that we wouldn’t be attacked, and if we did, it would come from my right. Or whatever side I had my sword on.
“Some ideas, men,” Samuel announced to the two dozen footmen gathered before him. He rode one of the large horses, which was fully armoured. His shield had been replaced with one of bold coloring, red and golden swirls placed around a noble-looking griffin. In his right hand, a long, slightly curved sword demanded attention. It was certainly greater than mere metal. All along its length were intricate and mysterious patterns. I exhaled slightly as I recognized what it really was. A rune sword, crafted and imbued by the legendary weapon forgers, the Piotos. Then Samuel really was a Prince.
The Piotos were a despised, secretive race of creatures. Not many had seen them, but they were rumoured to wear horrid metal masks to conceal their identities. Having learned of their weaponry, I was intrigued to learn that they marked their weapons with a distinct magical pattern. No one could duplicate it, because if a Piotos weapon were to be separated from its owner, it would disintigrate. It would also self-destruct if its owner thought it stolen or lost. The final way it could be destroyed is if someone was trying to copy the etchings on the sword, and the owner allowed it.
For those reasons, and also the extreme cost of a Piotos weapon, only nobles, or great generals would carry them. The weapon also had to be mastered by its owner. Past all the requirements and precautions taken to keep a Piotos sword, lay the power of a rune sword. Each sword’s power was unique, but they ranged from healing to summoning to mass destruction. Certain legends told by folk during cold nights involved a hero with a rune sword who slew many evils. Some legends told of men who had great strength when holding a certain sword.
“When we move, we move in a tight formation. Scramble still means scramble. If we are attacked, nothing fancy. We slay the Trolls.” Samuel paused, and looked past his men at Clover and I. “We are lucky to have a Byzu with us,” he said, glancing at my sword. “He does not need protection. Worry about the man next to you. However,” at my nod he continued, “If the girl is in danger, defend her. If not, free up the Byzu.” I felt Clover blush at the attention, but she did not say anything.
Bringing his attention back to his troops, he assigned positions and rotations. We would be traveling caravan-style, to accommodate the gear and passengers. I was surprised when he spoke of passengers, but as Chobyz rode out on a brown horse it became clear to me. The black horses were the war horses, and the other two horses from Taria were for Chobyz and what gear they required.
We rode out, Samuel with a dozen men in front, Clover and I near the middle, and the rest of the troops at the back. I did not see Chobyz, but judging from the strange energy the horses had, I figured his presence would have affected them.
For nearly an hour we rode in silence, not going faster than a trot. The sun had begun to come up from our left, so we were heading south. I was never really good at determining the direction, but I knew where the sun rose from and where it sank.
“Sy?” Clover asked. It was the first thing she had said since we left. Taking concern, I asked, “Yes?”
A thoughtful tone crept into her voice. “I know when you killed the bear I was sad, but don’t you think it’s strange?” I couldn’t see where she was going, so I said nothing. “Bears hibernate in the winter, but that man said it had cubs to feed. Isn’t that strange?”
“Yes, indeed. That is strange,” I said slowly. “Why do you think it was outside?” A feral voice, familiar as the grey sky, interrupted our conversation.
“The Trolls are about, Byzu,” Chobyz said. “All animals know when danger is about.” We both turned to look at the vision man, who rode up beside us. Our horse seemed to walk with a dignified grace, being closer to Chobyz.
“What are you?” Clover asked, her suspicious tone well covered. Chobyz laughed softly, it was a cruel sound.
“A Druid, one who lost his arm because of emotions,” he spat. The beads on his beard rattled as he turned away.
“A Druid?” she questioned, surprised. “I thought Druids were people that lived in secluded places.” I placed my hand on her shoulder, stopping her from saying any more. “There’s two types of Druids, maybe more,” I said, “One of them are the ones you’ve heard about.”
“The other,” Chobyz snarled. “Is a band of vicious fighters who shunned peaceful ways.” I nodded, ignoring his snarl. “And you are one of these?” I asked Chobyz. “What do you think, Byzu? You saw me battle the Trolls,” he spat.
Clover leaned backwards against me. “So that was you,” she said. He nodded, offering no words.
“I’m sure you mind my asking, but why were you in that town?” I asked. I did not try to keep my tone light, because I knew it would make no difference.
“I left the peaceful group of Druids when I was twenty-eight,” Chobyz said, his voice solemn. “I trained with the Spirit Dragon Clan, the other group of Druids. For six long years I honed my powers, and learned much. Then I fell in love.” Chobyz muttered something in another language, and his tone became spiteful again. “I was stupid at the time. As powerful as fighting Druids get, and probably as stupid. I left the Clan to live with a woman.” He shook his head, rattling the beads. “Then the Trolls came.”
“What do you know about the Trolls?” I pressed. He looked up, and I saw points of ice in his white eyes. “You ask too many questions, even for an assassin,” he stated. I merely shrugged, and shifted my grip on my sword. I didn’t mean to threaten the man, but he certainly took it as that. “Would you dare to fight me, Byzu? I don’t think you’re stupid enough.” I did not reply, but a small smile crept onto my face. “Very well,” he said, “Trolls are the evil things on this continent, they’re like Orcs, except—“ I had to interrupt him.
“How many other continents are there? And what are Orcs?” I asked. I hadn’t heard of other continents at the Academy. I hadn’t heard of much about different races.
“I don’t know the answer to your first question. But go with this: more than one,” he looked at me before solemnly saying, “Orcs are not on this continent. Hope they never come here. They are dangerous warriors, much more dangerous than Trolls could ever be. They have intelligence that could rival humans, immense strength, and a ferocity that would knock you off your feet.”
“How does one…recognize an Orc? Not an individual one, but--” I was cut off as Chobyz laughed.
“Byzu, you certainly are a strange one. You’ll know an Orc when you see one. What, have you never traveled in your life?” he spat. I merely shrugged. In my youth, I traveled once to my cottage near Taria. Suddenly bitter memories of the past drained me of any speaking ability, and Chobyz seemed to sense that. “Oh, now I see,” he said, his tone much softer. “Sorry to hear.” I stared at him, wondering what he saw in my past.
|The Path to December (Chp 3)||Path to December (Chp 5)|
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