The CrystalWind Chronicles
Book One: A Journey of Five
By: Brandon Lyon
With the parting of the Grand Council, Sir Amerdon of the Flaming Helm was able to relax. He sat in his stiff wooden chair, slouching the best he could, he was tired of all the talking, the treaties, and the politics. For heaven's sake, he was a Knight, a Knight of the Flaming Fist, the highest ranking Knights for that matter.
Sir Amerdon of the Flaming Helm sat in the Delegate Chamber, a large, tan stoned dome with a high, ornate ceiling with angels painted on it. The Chamber was well lit with torches, and the aromas from the candles were quite soothing. The room was littered with various people, mainly old men in long, dark robes discussing the latest article in Aberon Weekly.
Sir Amerdon was a tall fellow, about six feet, with a sharp handsome face, round blue eyes and dark chestnut hair. Today he wore an ornate tunic with oranges and reds, perfectly outlined with yellow lace; but he usually preferred to wear his silver Flaming Fist plate mail, with its blood red, jagged pauldrons that looked both intimidating and beautiful.
However, today…like most days now, he was out of his armor, out of battle, out of everything except for delegations. What possessed him the day he decided to join the Sub Council?
The topic on the Grand Council's mind today was expansion. Turning south past the Tregun Mountains in to what the scouts had called the Rolling Hills region. Although there was a slight problem to their plans, the Rolling Hills region was already inhabited by Halflings at a place called The Northward Hills.
Sir Amerdon had suggested sending him and his men down to squash the lot of them, but the Grand Council disagreed. They wanted to do this diplomatically; one even suggested going down and talking to the little half Humans.
What an idea, Amerdon thought. Going down to talk to them, The Great Aberons of Aberonia? It was preposterous! If he was the leader of the Grand Council he would have already conquered the land of Barika, Amin' Norr, and even Zardor itself, where the Goblins lie.
But Amerdon was not the leader of the Grand Council and he did not wish to be. He wanted to resign, but he knew that his image would be tarnished if he quit.
As much as he loved his people's lands, he hated the government. Set up with the Grand Council comprised of the Elder Twelve who made the decisions based on a populace vote of the Sub and Pro Councils. Amerdon preferred if they had a King like their brothers the Barnikans. Amerdon even thought of himself being King one day, as impossible as that was, he was still dreaming.
Sir Amerdon was shaken out of his musings by one of the squires rushing toward him. The little boy of around ten, stood nervously in front of Amerdon, breathless from his sprint.
"Yes, young squire, what is it?" Amerdon said lazily.
"Sir!" the squire squeaked out, "there's a riot in the prison cells. All the prisoners are cheerin' and yellin' and such."
"Really?" Amerdon said enthusiastically, getting up. This was an opportunity for action, perhaps he would even let one of the prisoners out to let him try to attack him. This was going to be fun.
Amerdon was about to dash off when he turned to the young messenger squire. He reached in his pocket and pulled out two gold coins.
"Here lad for a good job," Amerdon said, placing the coins in the lad's palms, "and by the way, it's cheering and yelling lad, correct your pronunciation if you wish to become a Knight."
"Yes Sir!" the squire said happily, the coins clutched tightly in his fist. Amerdon half ran to the Armory, not wanting to rouse any questions. He quickly fastened his armor over his tunic, sheathed his sword and dashed to the prison cells.
Indeed, the squire was right, there was a lot of yelling going on. The prisoners, mostly males were standing up and cheering through their bars at a young man who was speaking to them.
"And we'll escape and make it back to our families!" the young man said. He was tall, almost as tall as Amerdon, with shoulder length, scraggily hair, and a face needing a good shave.
Amerdon walked into the prison room, and cleared his throat. Slowly but surely, the prisoners turned to looked at Amerdon, their pride and happiness replaced with fear and anxiety.
"What is going on here?" Amerdon inquired. He placed his hands behind his back and began pacing the room.
"Anyone?" he asked, with a raised eyebrow.
"Do not speak to him," the young gallant male said loudly, "he will not get a word from us."
"And who do we have here?" Amerdon said, looking at the young adult. He picked up a prisoner report scroll on a nearby desk and flipped through it.
"Let's see…your name is Maximus?" he asked to the man.
He remained silent, but staring with fierce determination.
"Maximus…" Amerdon said, shuffling through his profile, "a Ranger, caught in the lands of Aberon without a passport my, my…what a shame."
The young man, named Maximus, remained silent.
This one's shell is a little harder to break…Amerdon thought. Slowly, and carefully so that everyone could see, he took the keys from the hook on the wall. He walked over to Maximus' cell, stuck the key in and unlocked to door, opening it wide enough fore escape.
"This is your chance…" Amerdon said in a whisper, "run you filthy Ranger so I can kill you."
"Ok." Maximus said calmly. In one bound, Maximus was on Amerdon, rolling him around on the cold, stone floor. Amerdon was taken by surprise, he expected nothing like this out of a Ranger, much less one who sat in a prison cell for months eating stale bread and water. However, Amerdon was no novice righter. He reached out and grabbed Maximus' foot and brought him inward. But Maximus' was quicker, with his free leg; he brought his knee up between Amerdon's cuirass and greaves, just above the groin. Amerdon fell over, gasping for breath while Maximus grabbed Amerdon's sword.
"Don't move you filthy Knight," Maximus said, pointing the sword at Amerdon. While Amerdon lay still, Maximus grabbed the keys and unlocked all the cells, the prisoners gave quiet squeaks of delight. Come with me, but first, let's tie up the Knight.
As strong as Amerdon was, he could not beat out twenty men gagging and tying him up with thick ropes. With a smirk, Maximus shoved him in the cell. Amerdon fell hard, watching Maximus and the other prisoners escape.
I'm done for…Amerdon thought. The guards are going to come in and find me, and they'll know I let one of them out. I'll be kicked out of the Flaming Helm and made a prisoner or slave myself. Why…oh, why did I do this? But an idea popped into Amerdon's head. Now all he had to do was wait.
Maximus the Ranger ran with all his might, through the hall ways of the prison keep, making sure they were not pursued. He usually never did things this foolishly, but he only had one chance to take.
Maximus was not a criminal. He never stole anything, at least if he could help it. He never murdered anyone Human, only ogres or trolls when they attacked him. No, the only thing that he did wrong was not getting an Aberon Passport.
The Aberon Passport was a slip of parchment that told any Aberon Imperial Guard who he was, and how long he had been registered to enter Aberon territory. Kind of dumb in Maximus' opinion, but the Grand Council has their reasons.
I hope we make it out of here alive…Maximus thought silently. Behind him were twenty or so men, some old, and some young, each with the same fearful expression plastered on their faces. It's a long shot, but we can do it.
Maximus stopped in a torch lit hallway. He looked around; the walls were a charcoal colored black, with ornate pictures lining the walls. A draft rustled Maximus' hair.
He turned and looked up; a single window was position about a painting of a fat old man in nice robes. The window was small, rectangular and perhaps large enough to fit him.
"We may be able to get through here," Maximus told the group, "it's our only chance."
"To what?" said one of the prisoners, a young boy with a stout face, "our doom? For surely there are archers abroad an' do ya expect us to survive that?"
"Indeed, there will be archers abroad my young friend," Maximus said, placing his hand on the boy's shoulder, "but would you rather face that?"
He pointed to the far side of the hallway. A single door stood, but beyond that they heard footsteps and people talking, their husky voices growing louder.
"This is our chance," Maximus said to the group, "take it or leave it."
"I'll take it." The boy with the stout face said, "Help me up, I'll go first." Maximus hefted the boy to the window, who opened it and climbed out. They could just make out the boy getting to his feet. We must be underground…Maximus thought, for he would have surely fallen.
"Come on!" the boy said, squatting to look at the prisoners, "Hurry!" One by one, the prisoners climbed their way through. Finally, Maximus climbed out. They had made it!
Maximus looked outward. They were in some sort of courtyard, with big, blossoming flowers of bright colors, plants of every kind, and a large fountain of a dolphin stood in the center.
"We must make haste," Maximus said, pushing them foreword, "we haven't much time."
Footsteps could be heard as Amerdon laid there, waiting and waiting. But now was Amerdon's time for action, for surely it had to work.
A young, round raced guard walked in alone. At once he spotted Amerdon; he rushed over.
"Sir!" the guard cried, "Wha' 'appened choo ya'?" He undid the ropes, letting Amerdon stand up.
"Well sir?" the guard asked impatiently.
"Sorry old chap," Amerdon said with a smirk. With a swift movement, Amerdon swung his fist at the man's jaw. There was a bone shattering crunch and the guard fell over, unconscious.
Amerdon sighed, "All in a day's work". He tied up the guard with the thick ropes, and stuffed him into the cell. Now they'll never know, when the guards find him, they'll ask him what happened, and…knowing him, he'll tell the truth. But they'd never suspect me of really doing it. Me! Sir Amerdon of the Flaming Helm!
Amerdon rushed out of the room, not wanting to be seen. He peered around the corner, nothing. Good, Amerdon thought, now all I have to do is find that damn Ranger!
But before he could do anything, he was stopped by Articus Furticus, a fellow delegate of the Sub Council.
"Amerdon, I'm so glad I found you. We need you in the Oval Room immediately." Articus said. Articus was usually a cheery man, with much to brag about, but no proof to show. But now he looked worried and strained.
"But…" Amerdon sputtered out. Why now!
"It's urgent," Articus said, "under order of the Elder Twelve! Come now!"
"Lead the way." Amerdon said angrily. He wouldn't tell anyone about the escaped prisoners, let them find out on their own. He was going to find that Ranger one day, and get his sword back!
Articus and Amerdon made their way to the Oval Room, where he had just been a few hours ago. Up at the High Table sat the Elder Twelve, old half dead looking men, with no sense at all.
The leader of the Elder Twelve, Darius Tochello stood once Amerdon and Articus took their seats. He cleared his throat, the room was tense.
"We have just received news that an Orc and Goblin army is making its way to Aberon."
The room began buzzing with noise, people whispering back and forth, making strange remarks and looked concerned.
Darius continued, "Our scouts say that the Orcs and Goblins are two months weeks away, preparing and training. Their army combined is ten thousand strong. We must come to a decision: what do we do?"
Amerdon spoke at once, "we should lead our army to counter that of the Orcs, we can handle it."
"Ten thousand?" Fidellieus Homard of the Pro Council asked, "We cannot counter ten thousand."
"What if we pleaded to Kingdom Barika?" Articus said, "Get them to help in the fight."
"Get them to help?" Amerdon said, "Why would the Barnikans help? They care nothing for themselves."
"If they thought that they were in danger, they would help." Articus explained, "the Orcs have to pass through Barika, Amin' Norr, and Lake Victoria to get here. That's the entirety of SummerSet Isles! We should ally with everyone we can."
"What, the Dwarves, the Elves too?" Fidellieus asked wildly, "why would they help?"
"Because it passes through their land too." Amerdon said softly, "the Orcs have to pass straight the Noth L'laban, the forest of the Elves and then through Amin' Norr, the mountains of the Dwarves. I think it's a grand idea."
"So does the Council." Darius said slowly, "a decision has been made. We shall plead to the rest of SummerSet Isles for military aid. With their help, we should be able to squash the Orcs."
"Now there is one more thing," Darius said, "Who will go?"