Authors: Mike Simmons
The elven group seemed to be eating some sort of preserved berry, which they sucked on instead of chewing, for hours upon end. The berry looked like a ripe cherry. Janga ask about it; the Highren’Dol called them the Dia’Des, or Life Berry, in the common tongue. They are able to dehydrate them, and when sucked on, the Life Berry would hydrate and feed the person eating it for upwards of a whole day.
“Amazing,” Janga thought.
Although stillness blanketed the night and men slept, not everyone got to enjoy the peace of rest. A single room, known as the war room, sat high above the great hall and the burning oil lamps shed light upon the heads of each force. Janga Blackhand and Arkam Icebreath flanked Lord Reinhold, Hronlin and two of his commanders sat across from them, and High Templar Ri’Kel’Asan Reyendar and his Battalion Commander, Mier’Den Ferasae, filled in the remaining space around a large table. The Highren’Dol indicated ranking or royalty with additions, or titles, within their first names. ‘Kel’ was the name of royal bloodlines, specifically the bloodline of the Reyendar’s.
Two of the lizard men were also here and after a moment of deliberation, they decided to call their Noman Leader ‘Ess’, as his name could not be properly pronounced in the human tongue. The group deliberated and planned their strategies until the first hours of morning. They did not sleep or rest. Each group leader brought ideas and strategies of their own, different in slight ways from the rest, but one thing became clear; they were going to attack Orlimay again, in full force.
Reinhold informed them in detail of his previous attack on her capital city. He informed them of the Boatman and the Beacon, and his ideas on utilizing their powers. After many hours of discussion and planning, they came up with a plan.
The stars moved smoothly across the sky. He tried to count them as he lay with his head on his hands, but realized the ridiculousness in his attempt. He could not sleep; the openness of the sky seemed dangerous after being secluded in the caves.
The air is nice though.
He briefly closed his eyes as he took in a deep breath. Edward snored again, and as he did multiple times earlier, he would wake himself up or roll over trying to get comfortable, stopping only momentarily. A fire crackled in the small pit of stones. Jasmine could not sleep either, and Brandon only became aware of it when she spoke.
“You haven’t been sleeping. Is it hard to sleep out here?”
Brandon turned his head to look at her. She laid on her side, head resting on her bent arm. Her facial features were smooth and unrefined, like a river rock. From her nose to her chin, her jawline and brow, her features were smooth and unpronounced. Her long, straight blond hair shimmered in the firelight. She had a small but sexy smile on her face.
Brandon realized he looked at her a little too long, so he turned his head back to look at the stars and laughed. “Yeah. I would have never thought it, but you kind of get used to the security of the mountain walls. It feels really large out here, like there are no boundaries.”
“There isn’t,” Jasmine said softly.
Brandon had a feeling that she implied much more than sleeping outside.
“Yeah…” he said under his breath. He lookup up into the never-ending sky, as his mind played over the events of the last month.
Moments passed, Jasmine still watched Brandon and pondered their roles within the big picture, and Brandon stared into the sky. After a few minutes, Jasmine spoke up quietly.
“Do you really think we can stop Aurora?”
Brandon looked deep into the stars. He noticed a small shooting star spark off to his right. He waited, thinking and then released his breath.
“Honestly? I have no idea. Edward keeps telling me I am a part of something huge. He says I am a part of the prophecy, but I am a simple farmer. That is all I have really known. I know how to cut and move wheat. I know how to bake bread. That is really about it. I don’t know about these big cities, and I sure don’t know anything about war.”
“You were captured by the Bauth’Dok, and survived. Not only did you survive, but you killed a Blademaster and you escaped. I do not think that has ever been done. That doesn’t sound like anything a farmer can do, if you ask me.”
Brandon snorted. “You would have done the same thing. I did not have any other options. When life drops you to rock bottom, you do what you have to do to survive. There were other men there, and none of those men survived because they could not heal themselves. We were there for each other; we were all that each other had.”
“But you not only survived, you killed the Blademaster and took his swords.”
“I didn’t beat him. He kicked the living hell out of me. It took everything I had to not get chopped in half. In fact,” Brandon pulled his shirt up from his pants, revealing a two-inch vertical scar in the center of his chest, “this is where he ran one of the swords completely through me. I should be dead. It was a fluke.
this is a fluke.”
He paused, looking at Jasmine but she said nothing. She stared at him, her beautiful eyes sparkling from the fire light. The silence was awkward to Brandon, so he kept talking.
“I’m a healer, but not a very good one. I could not heal anyone in there but myself. What good is a power that can only be used on yourself? That seems very selfish to me. Why would the Gods do that?” Brandon stopped talking. He could heal others, but he frustration built within him because he could not reverse the damage from the trexalite radiation the other men sustained.
“I don’t know, Jasmine. I killed the creature with the swords, the Blademaster, because he was the reason everyone was dying. I do not consider myself a hateful person, but I
him. I wanted him dead
. I think I survived that to stop him.”
Jasmine interrupted him. “Maybe you survived so that you can stop Aurora.”
Brandon rolled his head towards Jasmine, and rolled his eyes.
Jasmine spoke with some annoyed effort behind her words.
“I’m serious! Maybe you are destined to kill her because she will not be expecting you. You know, you could just sneak right in there and cut off her head!” She busted up laughing.
Brandon laughed as well. Edward rolled over on to his side and adjusted his position aggressively.
“If only it were that easy. It seems an impossible feat. She has a standing army larger than the entire city where I grew up. How does that work? Moreover, she is a Class Five! You could count all of the people on the whole planet who are Class Fives, on less than a single hand. There is a reason she rules a kingdom, and there is a reason no one has knocked her off her throne. I stand as the ant underneath her boot.”
Jasmine motioned her head over to the two black-handled swords, which she knew were glowing beneath their scabbards. “You’ve got two swords now.” She smiled, teasingly.
Brandon chuckled again. “I don’t even know how to use those swords. It is so awkward even holding them. It’s kind of like putting a smith’s hammer in the hands of a baker; I can hold them, but they don’t feel like the right tools.”
“Well, if it helps any, I think you are doing the right thing.” She paused slightly, “And you are not alone. I have already decided that I am going with you until this is over. And I really don’t think Edward is going anywhere.”
“Yeah, it does help, but I feel like this is a big mistake. I feel like I am going to get everyone killed, just because of your blind faith in me. I don’t want anyone else to die.”
His words were like ice over his tongue. Suggesting they might die in this venture hit the two hard. Brandon blinked. A rush of thoughts flooded his mind; his capture by the Bauth’Dok, thrown into a cage and drug into the mountain, where no one could find him. His freedom, his rights, and his pride were stripped from him, and they forced him to into labor for long hours, while receiving little sleep and poor food. The thought of it all overwhelmed him. Jasmine could see the glimmer of a tear building up on the edge of his eye.
“I trust you, Brandon,” she whispered.
Brandon shut his shaking eyes. A single tear, holding the weight of his thoughts, rolled gently down his cheek.
Morning rolled upon the sleeping group in a flash. Brandon and Jasmine were each in a deep sleep, considering they closed their eyes only a few hours ago. Edward dug in the bottom of his knapsack looking for the last of his crackers. He mumbled to himself, frustrated at finding nothing.
Donald had crossed the river after he skirted across the hanging rope, and picked up the last bits of their equipment. The horses were tied to the trees, nibbling at the grasses on the ground. He kicked dirt over the tore up ground, diluting their tracks for anyone who might come across them.
Donald glanced over at the camp and caught eyes with Edward. Edward smiled a crooked smile and waved and got a wave in return.
Donald yelled across the river. “Get the kids awake and come over. I’m finished over here.” He lips curled up in a smile, showing his teeth.
Edward gave him a nod and another wave and cinched up the knapsack tightly.
Brandon woke when he heard Donald’s voice. He looked up, squinting his eyes; it seemed bright out here to him. He raised his hand above his brow and looked around. Edward glanced over to him.
“Oh! Good morning, good morning!”
When Edward spoke, Jasmine shot awake, sitting up as if she barely missed something. She also squinted. Neither of them were ready to wake up.
Edward spoke again. “Donald says he is ready for us back across the river. Get up! The day is young!” He giggled, excitedly. Edward swept their camp with a fallen branch, as Brandon and Jasmine stood and picked up their belongings. As they stood, Jasmine caught Brandon’s eye and smiled. He smiled back shyly, quickly looking to the ground. Jasmine giggled quietly. Brandon looked around, making sure they did not forget anything when his eyes fell upon the two black-handled swords lying on top of the tall grass. They were sheathed in Blackwood scabbards, where intricate and ornate carvings ran from top to bottom. The bottom of each scabbard had two black silk ribbons attached to them. They emitted a power beyond understanding, making them seem larger than they were. Brandon felt as if they were alive, staring at him, watching. An angelic humming filled his ears, and whispered his name.
“Brandon!” yelled Jasmine; she stared at him with concern. “I was calling your name, didn’t you hear me?”
Brandon looked into her eyes and then back to the swords. “Sorry… I was just…,” he said quietly. The blades held great magic. He did not understand it, but the magic within those blades could make miracles happen. “I was getting the swords.” Brandon reached down and grabbed the swords.
I cannot just leave them here.
Since he would not be able to hold them in his hands when he crossed the river, Brandon strapped the swords on, forming an “X” across his back. He felt stupid wearing them; awkward and goofy.
“Looks good, sir,” Jasmine said, winking at Brandon when he looked at her.
He had not gotten used to her smooth facial features; the lack of definition in her face caught his eye every time he looked at her. Brandon actually enjoyed looking at her. He smiled at her and faintly chuckled.
I have no idea what I am getting myself into. I have my hands full with a war, and now a girl. I am in way over my head.
They gathered up their things and walked to the water line. The Paraline River flowed strongly, creating small white-capped rifts in the water. The day seemed calm, but all were nervous as they approached the rope that spanned the river.
“Guess I’ll go first.” Brandon grabbed the rope with his right hand and pulled down on it three times; solid.
“C’mon! It will not break! I assure you! I’m heavier than the three of you combined and I made it just fine!” shouted Donald from across the river. Even though his statement bent the truth, it eased the tension on those across from him.
Brandon paused shortly before tossing his leg over the rope. “Here we go.” He scooted his arms and legs in unison across the rope, one over the other, until he felt Donald grab him and help him down.
“Ha! I made it!” He laughed.
Jasmine giggled aloud, nodded with pleasure and then threw herself up on the rope. She did not go as fast as Brandon, perhaps because of her death grip on the rope, but she made it as well. Finally, Edward crossed the Paraline. They decided to leave the rope up, in case anyone else decided to cross.
“So what now?” Brandon asked.
Donald released the horses from the trees and brought them across the shoreline to rest of the group. Brare, Donald’s warhorse, still wore its shining armor; riveted with small spikes. It made Firecracker and Baby seem naked and harmless in relation.
“What now?” Donald asked, reiterating Brandon’s question. “Well, there is a lot we need to do. If we are truly planning to attack Aurora, we need to figure out what our assets are. Can you use those swords, Brandon?”