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Authors: Joseph Lallo

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The Book of Deacon

BOOK: The Book of Deacon
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The
Book
of
Deacon

 

Joseph R. Lallo

 

Smashwords Edition

 

Copyright ©2010 Joseph R. Lallo

 

Cover By Nick Deligaris

http://www.deligaris.com

 

Smashwords
Edition,
License
Notes

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enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
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respecting the hard work of this author.

###

The end of an era is always a time of great
importance. Sweeping change. Advancing into a new age. These are
surely things worthy of a place in the memory of a people. Too
often, though, it is a single event that brings about the most
direct change that receives the attention. The blow that ends the
battle, the last brick to fall. In our worship of these moments,
these endings, we neglect the journeys, the trials, the hardships,
and the battles endured to make them possible.

Whosoever is fortunate enough to find this book shall
finally hear the greatest of these tales. I have spent much of my
life piecing together the words that follow. Most of what you shall
read comes from the mouths of the people who lived it. It is my
hope, in recording the path taken by these heroes, that those in
the years to come will not be blind to the dangers that threatened
this world once before. If the unthinkable is once again allowed to
come to pass, perhaps the knowledge and the deeds of the heroes of
old will stir others to their greatness.

The tale you shall read is of the Perpetual War. If
you live in a time or a place that has allowed you to forget this
dark era, consider yourself fortunate. To be ignorant of these
events is a blessing. However, knowledge of the evils of old is the
only protection against their return.

The Perpetual War, at the start of our tale, had been
plaguing the world for one and a half centuries. It was a conflict
that divided our people. The large farming kingdom, Tressor, formed
half of the conflict. It was a land of fertile fields, a land of
plenty, that covered most of the southern part of the continent and
was home to more than half of the people of the world. They opposed
a union of the three remaining kingdoms--Kenvard, Ulvard, and
Vulcrest--that had come to be known to its people as the Northern
Alliance, and by its enemies as the Nameless Empire. This was a
land of snowy fields, dense forests, and icy mountains. Despite a
vast disadvantage in strength and size, this Alliance had managed
to withstand decade after decade of battle. This conflict was a
constant part of the lives of all, and is the reason that what
follows must be told.

My place in this tale is small. There are others
better suited to put to words what came to pass, but most have
taken their final steps down their own paths. Thus it falls to me,
lest the tale go untold. I shall endeavor to recount the events in
as straightforward and impersonal a manner as possible. Do not
imagine this as a tale told by a man. It is merely a record. Words
on a page. Words that tell of the most unlikely of events,
beginning in the most unlikely of places . . .

#

The end of the fall had only just come, and
already the air could chill one to the bone. Of course, this far
north, one could seldom expect anything else. It was not the cold
that bothered her, though. She'd dealt with that all of her life.
Pulling the tattered remnants of her uncle's old cloak closer about
her, she pressed on.

As Myranda strained her eyes against the
blistering wind, she saw nothing more than horizon. It would likely
be another full day of walking before she saw anything but the
unbroken field ahead of her. She shook her head, a faint frown
cracking her dry lips.

"I should have known," she said aloud to
herself. "He seemed a shade too eager to give me directions."

Myranda had taken to talking to herself to
fill the long, lonely, and all too frequent trips like these. With
no companion, the only thing likely to interrupt the ceaseless howl
of the wind was the periodic noisy complaints from her stomach.
That much concerned her. She could afford to buy no supplies in the
last town, and no tavern or inn had been willing to serve her
thanks to a simple yet disastrous slip of the tongue. Anyone could
have made the same mistake. In another time, it might have gone
unnoticed--or, at least, unchallenged--but in the world of her
birth it was inexcusable.

Two older women had been standing in the
street, discussing the most recent news of the war. These days one
would be hard-pressed to find a different topic of discussion. In
this instance, it seemed that the Northern Alliance had pushed back
a rather sizable advance. After three long, bloody days of battle,
the Alliance troops had managed to take back the very same piece of
land that they had started on. The cost of this maintenance of
status quo was the lives of the better half of the troops in the
area. In and of itself, such a tale was anything but notable.
Indeed, a day without such a battle was rarer than a day with one.
The difference on this day was that the Tresson army had lost even
more.

The two women cackled and bragged over the
victory, each telling exaggerated tales of their nearest war-going
relative. "My boy promised to kill three of those swine just for
me," one would say. Another would respond triumphantly that all
four of her children had made the same promise. It was during this
exchange that Myranda made her fateful slip.

"All of those lives . . . wasted," she had
said with sorrow.

Wasted! Having your child give his or her
life for the cause was the greatest honor a mother could hope for.
To speak of such noble efforts as a waste was tantamount to
treason. How dare this wandering woman speak ill of the war! After
countless generations, it had ceased to be a simple struggle
between two lands and had become a way of life. Those who opposed
this sacred tradition of noble battle were unwelcome. That one
word--
wasted
--may as well have sealed the poor girl's
doom. It had kept her from filling her pack and from filling her
belly. Worse still, it had led a seemingly good man to send her
through this frozen waste, claiming it to be the fastest way to the
next town.

She shook her head again. It was one lesson
that she could not bring herself to learn. If someone was going to
tell a lie, they would tell it with a smile. Now she found no less
than a day of solid travel between herself and another human being.
The cold was tightening its grip on the icy field with each passing
moment. In perhaps an hour, the last glow of the sun would leave
the sky, taking with it the meager warmth it had cast upon the
world. The cold of the day was unbearable, but the night was
unlivable. Worse, there was a darkness due to the impenetrable
sheet of clouds overhead that warned of a snowfall in the coming
hours. She had yet to find a replacement for her thin summer
blanket, and she could neither afford nor carry a tent. If Myranda
was to survive this night, she would need a fire.

Alas, there were but three types of terrain
in this land: vast, treeless fields; dense, forbidding forests; and
rocky, impassable mountains. She found herself in the first, an
icy, barren stretch of land with not a plant to burn for warmth
save some sparse grass and tough lichens. Neither would be good for
producing anything more than smoke and ash. She scanned the endless
horizon for a tree, a bush, anything that could yield a flame.
Finding none, she made ready to bed down where she was and hope for
the best.

Just as she stopped, the last rays of the
setting sun peeking through a rare break in the cloud cover
reflected their crimson radiance back from the east. After
squinting, rubbing her eyes, and blinking only to find the fading
twinkle still present in the distance, she was convinced that
whatever it was, it was real.

"It was probably nothing," she said. She
glanced back in the direction she'd come, then in the direction
she'd been heading. "Which beats every other direction, where there
is certainly nothing."

To fill the time as she approached the
mystery object, and to take her mind off of the rather dire
position she found herself in, she busied her imagination with
thoughts of what it might be.

"Shiny . . . a mirror. Perhaps a caravan of
nomads came by and dropped wares. Or perhaps it is a jewel. A dozen
or a hundred jewels. And gold, too. A king's ransom left behind by
some daring thief where no one would ever find it, in no man's
land. Ha, that would be my luck. To find a pile of treasure when
all I need is a pile of wood," she said to herself.

The time passed quickly as she dreamed up
objects and ways to explain them. She'd not yet reached the object
when the sun's rays failed, leaving her without a reflection to
guide her. Her sense of direction was nearly flawless--a fortunate
fact, as it was all she had left to lead her to the mysterious
object. The sunset-painted clouds gave little in the way of light,
but night brought utter darkness. Neither moon nor stars could hope
to break through the solid sheet of gray overhead. That was no
different from any other night, though. Even without the stars to
follow, one found ways to stay on course in this land.

In the thick blackness that surrounded her,
she literally stumbled over what she was looking for. There was
what seemed to be a large mound of rocks surrounded by a liquid
that was sticky, despite the cold that would have frozen most
things. There was also a bundle of irregular metal plates that she
heard clang and crunch as she stepped on them.

"What happened here?" she asked no one in
particular as she tripped blindly through the obstacle course she'd
found. Two more steps, though, brought a squeaky crunch that made
her heart skip a beat. It was the sound of icy wood. She must have
stumbled into the remains of a camp site, and now stood ankle-deep
in her salvation.

She knelt by the fireplace and began to pull
away the icy crust that eventually formed over anything that
remained outside long enough. Soon all that remained was the
powdery remains of the fire that had occupied this place not long
before. It was bone dry and better than kindling. A single spark
and she would have a fire in no time. The overjoyed young lady
pulled her flint from one of her tattered pockets and reached
blindly for one of the metal plates she'd heard clang free when
she'd nearly tripped over it. She struck the flint to the metal and
in moments had a warm bed of embers. A few moments more and the
largest of the charred pieces of wood had caught, casting a
delicious warmth and light on her immediate surroundings.

Now, with light enough to see what she held
in her hand, she looked over the piece of metal. It was oddly
shaped and not nearly polished enough to have caused the reflection
that had led her here. On the curved interior of the metal plate,
she found a few torn leather straps bolted to it. The outside bore
an embossed symbol that looked to be a crest--one that she did not
recognize.

"It must be a piece of armor," she decided,
turning it about one last time.

Satisfied that the fire was in no danger of
going out, Myranda stood to inspect the strange place she'd
wandered into. She found the bundle she'd stepped on and could now
clearly see that it was indeed a full suit of plate armor. It
appeared to be badly damaged and fairly frozen to the ground.

"Why would an empty suit of armor be in the
middle of a field?" she wondered aloud. The answer came quickly and
brought a chill to her spine that the iciest of wind never could.
It was not empty.

She backed slowly away, dropping the piece
she held. Myranda hated death above all else, a fact that had made
her life a good deal more miserable than those of the war-hardened
villagers who shunned her. They saw death not only as a necessary
part of life, but a positive one, a source of glory, respect, and
honor. They heaped more praise upon a fallen soldier than the poor
man or woman could ever have hoped for in life, a fact that
bothered Myranda all the more.

As she moved away from the body, her eyes
darted all over. Something caught her panicked gaze and froze her
in her tracks. Peeking out from beneath the frost-covered shield
was a patch of coarse brown cloth. A pack! One could not live in a
time of war and not know what such soldier's packs contained.
Money, water--and, best of all, food. The body could not be more
than a few days old. In this cold, the rations in his pack would
still be edible.

BOOK: The Book of Deacon
9.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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