The War of Evermore
"The Army!" A tone of excitement rang through the normally reserved voice of his father. "Son, today you have brought more honor to me than I ever could have hoped! You are the first in our family to ever be accepted."
The boy thought to himself, "If he only knew what the plan to have us do, he wouldn't be praising me." However, the boy showed no signs of his inner regret. Instead he smiled and said, "I'm glad I was able to please you father, but I must leave now or I'll be late to a meeting, it's in the central square and you know how tough it can be to get there."
"Good luck son, I'll see you at dinner. I was able to get a pig today and the meat will be good and fresh."
The boy could taste the heavy, smoked flavor of his father's cooking already. The thought cheered him up somewhat; his father was a great cook. His spirit sank quickly because he knew that, likely as not, this would be the last time they had anything as grand as that. Also, he had no meeting attend; he just wanted some time to think. His father knew, but said nothing and watched as his son walked away.
The boy walked for a ways and remembered he needed to buy a sword, the one thing the army couldn't supply. He didn't understand this because they had so few soldiers to begin with. Their cause was hopeless. The Rashavarians had an army that outnumbered theirs tenfold. He knew little more of them then that. He stopped by one of the many fountains in the city to get a drink, but lost himself in his reflection.
Two years ago he started training to join the army and it had changed him dramatically. He was eighteen now and his body had fully matured. He was somewhat muscular but his face was gentle. He had blonde hair down to his shoulders in the back and cut just above his eyes in the front. He hadn't shaved in a week, so he looked unkempt. He noticed how his eyes had changed. They seemed an almost darker green then they had been, but that illusion was caused by the wisdom they held, not from age, but from experience. They were also deeply troubled. His mother had died when he was only eleven, causing him to sink into depression at the time. Shortly after, his brother was killed by a pickpocket while coming home from the market. When he was finally able to recover he was almost thirteen. Two months later his father, who was a trader at the time, was trapped in a pass back home from Ras Nalen because of the Wyvern Wars. They had caused a rock fall, sealing off both ends. He was forced to raise himself for the next two years.
He had started walking away from the fountain when someone tapped his shoulder. He turned and reached for his coin purse expecting to see a beggar, but was surprised to see someone with long brown hair and large brown eyes staring up at him.
"Why so surprised Michael? Did I scare you?" said the face.
Finally realizing who the face belonged to, Michael smiled. "No Alma, I'm just glad to see you."
He stood there for a moment losing himself in those eyes and felt the familiar sensation of butterflies rising in the pit of his stomach, which she always seemed to give him. He had met Alma seven years ago at his father's guild meeting. It was the first time he had left the house after his mother died. Her father had been a trader as well and had been trapped with his father, but was killed by a band of roaming Wyverns trying to flee the war. Alma didn't know her father very well and never knew her mother, so his death didn't affect her much. It was with her and her brother Matt's help that Michael was able to come out of his emotional shell. They all stayed good friends for the next four years, and then she became something more. He remembered that day three years ago he first noticed her in that special way. He was at his thinking spot on Northern Island in the bay, trying to decide whether or not to join the army. The salty smell of the ocean and the cool sea breeze always seemed to calm him down. He had just spotted a small white book lying on the ground of the interior of the island, when he heard splashing from behind him. Alma was walking up out of the water and waving up at him. Suddenly he felt an odd feeling well up inside his stomach. He didn't know what to think about it until he looked at Alma again. He was surprised to find that he thought her beautiful. He had never noticed that particular aspect of her.
Now, even after three years of being with her, she still brought out the butterflies. He wanted desperately to be able to marry her someday, but he didn't see how. He had a feeling that the city's engagement with the Rashavarians wouldn't go well. He could see Alma was getting impatient with his long pause and just then she voiced her agitation.
"Are you going to stare into space all day or are you going to talk to me? You promised to take me to the market today, or did you forget?"
" I'm sorry Alma. Of course I didn't forget. How could I?' he lied. "I've just had so much to think about lately. I leave in four days Alma, and I have a feeling things aren't going to go so well."
" Don't be silly. The Magistrate said everything would go fine. The Rashavarians will just turn around when they see we intend to fight. They've met no resistance yet and if we show any, we're small enough that they won't bother with us." Alma said trying to reassure him.
" I hope he's right Alma, I truly do."
" Why do you refuse to be happy you dummy? I think a walk through the market will cheer you up." She replied.
They walked onto Market Street hand in hand and all thought of finding a sword left him, forgotten in exchange for thoughts of how to please Alma.
As they walked through the market Michael bought everything Alma wanted. That included candy for the both of them, a necklace with an obsidian pendant, some new hiking boots, and a nice dress for Alma. With both parties satisfied they made to leave the market. As they neared the exit they passed a merchant he had never seen before. An odd sensation came over him and he was drawn back to the unusual merchant. The only item the man had on display was an old cloak with a snake insignia and the letters MK on the back. Michael wasn't interested and started to walk away, but Alma grabbed his shoulder and gave him a disapproving look.
"Come on Michael, look how ragged the poor man is, buy the cloak, if not to wear it, than to just give the man some money for some food. He looks like he hasn't eaten in weeks. Come on. Look it even has your initials on it, Michael Karlan, see?" she whispered to him. He could never disagree when she set her mind on something.
" How much for the cloak sir?" he asked.
The man looked up and his eyes brightened he saw that he had customers. " It's as much as you think it's worth. Decide for yourself how much to invest in a ragged old cloak," said the man in return almost sadly.
Michael reached into his coin purse and found fifteen ragans, considerably more than the cloak was worth. Michael felt sorry for the man though and handed all of it to him. Instantly it felt as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. The man wrapped the cloak up for them and smiled as they left. As they were exiting the market they heard the merchant cry " Remember this, many old things hide secrets. They all have their own stories, some far more profound than others."
They turned back to ask what he meant, but he was gone, leaving no sign he had ever been there. Michael stood there wondering where the man could have gone when he felt a poke on his ribs. He turned to face Alma and she asked "Umm… do you think there is any way I could come home with you tonight. Mrs. Lynn is having some important guests over tonight and Matt is off in Asra for a hawking competition. I need a place to eat and sleep tonight."
" Since when have you not been welcome at our house Alma. Of course you can."
Alma giggled joyfully. "Why would she giggle?" he wondered, and they walked toward his house arm in arm.
A man in a black cloak watched the two walk away and smiled to himself. His task here had been completed, "Very soon now," he thought. "Yes, very soon." And the man faded into this shadows and was gone.
As he led Alma into his house, the realization that he had forgotten to buy a sword smacked him upside the head. He cursed and ran for the door. All the forges would be closed very soon. Just as he reached the door a log came down in front of him and knocked him to the ground. He looked up and saw his father's arm, not a log.
"What's the rush son, you've only just arrived? Sit down and stay a while," his father said with a large grin on his face.
" Very funny father, but I'm not in the mood for this right now. I forgot to get a sword today and if I don't have one tomorrow I will be discharged from the army."
His father laughed and Alma giggled, the same giggle she had earlier, what was going on?
"You needn't worry son, I've had you covered for a while now. Alma knew too so don't give that agitated look to me alone. In fact, she planned today out real well I'd say."
Michael stood there opened mouthed for a while and the started laughing along with Alma and his father. That evening was full of laughter, stories were told about all three and the laughter lasted through dinner, which was as excellent as anticipated, and for a few hours more besides. His father announced he was about to tell the last story of the evening. It was a story about Michael's grandfather that he had not heard before.
" When my father was about your age," his father began " he rescued a princess from an old demon of the woods. The fight between the two lasted weeks, each side breaking only to sleep and eat, because even most demons have honor. Then one day my father decided to try something new. Every day both combatants had gone after each other with every thing they had, so he decided to feign falling back halfway through the days fight. The demon paused surprised that his opponent had fallen back this early on after weeks of being in a dead stalemate. This moment was all he needed; he swung his sword in a mighty arc and severed the demons head. He cut open the cage in which the demon had been keeping the princess hostage, but in doing so he broke his sword. Now, the princess was much more than she seemed, for she could use magic, but not just any magic, light magic, which was said no longer to exist and most likely died with her. Seeing her savior weeping over his broken sword, which had been with him as long as any could remember, she used her magic to mend it. He thanked her from his heart and returned her to her kingdom. Some say now that when the princess mended the blade, she put an enchantment over it, protecting its wielder from harm, as a token of love to the man. Others say it was a curse she put on the blade, for the man had not returned her love. As for me, I say the story was an invention of your grandfathers, to glorify his homemade blade and his own reputation." As he finished he went to the closet and pulled out a long bundle and put it on the table in front of Michael. His father continued, "Either way son, his sword now belongs to you. May it bring you honor and the protection of your grandfather, who must have been protected by something to be able to survive an encounter with a dragon with no more than a few burnt hairs and a scorched rump."
Michael broke into laughter at the final joke his father told and was followed by Alma and then his father. When the laughing subsided his father handed him the sword and Michael unwrapped it. Surprisingly the sword shone as if it had been just polished, or even freshly forged. Its edge was still razor sharp and it was far lighter than it looked. Did his grandfather truly forge this sword? This was far better than any of the city smith's work.
When Michael had finished admiring his grandfather's sword, Alma came up to him with an odd look in her eyes. " Umm… do you want to go outside for a while and lay on the hill to look at the stars? I want to talk to you… alone."
This was definitely odd. He saw no reason to upset her however, so he agreed. He followed her out the door and not a word was spoken as they walked to the hill. When they arrived at the hill they laid down side by side. Michael looked into the night sky. He could see every star and thought to himself "I could spend an eternity looking and not see all the beauty there is to see there," and he was not referring to the sky. "You sure got me today didn't you? Making me forget my sword until I got home and even making me spend all my money."
"The sword, yes we had that planned, but the money was all you." She smiled when she said it, but she definitely had something on her mind.
Alma turned to him and started to say something but cut herself off. What was going on with her tonight? She took a deep breath and said to him "Michael… lets get married… tonight."
The world froze. Had she really just asked him that? Was he dreaming? This was almost too much! His heart began pounding faster and faster until he almost became dizzy. He looked at Alma and everything was all right again.
" I agree with you Alma. Let us enjoy these last carefree days we have together, because I still can't help but feel something is going to go wrong.
That night they were officially married by the council, who were not happy at being held late, and then they went home. Michael took the couch in the living room and gave his bed to Alma. They slept quietly; ignorant of what of what lay ahead of them and of what it truly meant to be married, for they were both pure souls.