Glory & Honour
Good and evil are interchangeable. Why must one side conquer over the other if they are one and the same?
The thundering sounds of hooves pounded from the north-east, becoming louder as the horses drew closer. One of the riders, a man with long grey hair, galloped towards the fire place and came to a sudden halt. "The King's Men come! We must flee!" he cried.
Panicked screams surfaced from the camp. Women pulled their frightened children closer to their bodies while the men tried to stand tall and brave. But even a fool could see these people were anything but brave. A man with short orange hair and bright blue eyes stepped forward. He was dressed in a pure white robe with a golden band around his waistline. "Vengaul, how many men are there?"
Vengaul steadied his breathing to reply. "Fifteen of the King's best men," he replied. He darted his eyes over his shoulder, casting brief glances at his riders. One of his ten riders, only nine were seated. "We lost Tomi in the chase," he added sadly. He had seen Tomi fall from his horse, knocked off by an arrow. He tried to go back for him, but it was far too late. The King's Men surrounded him, tied him up with rope and hoisted him onto the back of the horses.
Aarin glanced down at the earth beneath his feet. A sliver of a tear ran down his pallid left cheekbone, landing on the tip of his shoe. How many more of his friends would he lose? He looked up from the ground and glanced towards the direction Vengaul had come from. The King's Men would arrive soon. "Take our people to the caverns below Vengaul. I will meet you there," Aarin said, not taking his eyes off the leaf littered path.
"But Aarin, the King's Men..." he protested eyes wide and alert. Despite his strength, Aarin could not hope to defeat all fifteen of the King's elite.
"Don't question my orders, Vengaul."
Vengaul closed his mouth, figuring it was best not to argue further. Aarin was their leader; he knew what was best for them. He nodded and motioned for his fellow kin to follow him deeper into the forest. The men, women, children followed Vengaul quickly, flanked by the horse riders. Soon, they could no longer be seen, the thick vegetation of the forest protecting them.
The sound of frantic horses and war hungry riders became louder as the riders drew closer. Aarin held out his hand, closed his eyes and mumbled a few words under his breath. A giant staff, a crooked stick made out of red oak wood, materialized before him. Gripping the mid part of the stick with his right hand, he lifted it off the ground and aimed it towards the opening.
The first rider appeared, a man heavily dressed in silver chainmail. A silver bassinet sat on his head, the hinged visor pulled up. A silver sword hung from his left thigh, a symbol of a white tiger on its sheath. Upon seeing Aarin, the man sneered. "Ordered your pathetic people to leave did you? A wise move." He cautiously drove his horse forward, closing the distance between Aarin and himself.
Several more riders arrived, positioning their horses side by side their captain. "Careful Durnan – he's not your average Natural," one of the solders commented, his eyes never leaving Aarin's face.
Natural. A term used to describe sorcerers born with the ability to use magic. Naturals were despised and hated by their kingdom's head, King Strongheart. A bounty totalling more than a one hundred thousand gold coins was placed on a Natural's head. Durnan smirked. "I'm not scared of some freak of nature," he commented. "You Naturals think your powers are superior, but they are not. Everyone knows knowledge can overcome power any day."
Aarin's muscles tensed. "You must be a Learned then." Learned sorcerers were typically men who spent a majority of their years studying the art of magic. The fast learners were then trained to be bodyguards of the King; men who could fight with steel and use magic to defend. Defeating one Learned was simple; Naturals were far stronger. But facing a group of Learned sorcerers was difficult.
"We've got one of your filthy kin with us," Durnan said. "We're taking him back to the castle. Our King wishes to test an experiment on him." Several soldiers laughed at Durnan's words.
Aarin tried not to let his despair show. "What sort of vile experiment?"
"Our King wishes to see if a Natural can become a Learned," Durnan explained. Aarin arched an eyebrow in confusion. Durnan sneered. "Basically, your pal is going to become Mariah's personal slave. Our King has recently discovered a spell that will make him forget who is really is."
Aarin narrowed his eyes. Mariah, the Lady of Chiria. He had not laid eyes upon her, but it was said she was incredibly beautiful and intelligent. Her brother was Blythe, the Lord of Chiria. He was the strongest of the Learned, and excelled in sword fighting. The two of them were held in high-regard by the people of Chiria and their King. "Mariah's personal slave?" he repeated.
"You heard right. I know you Naturals rate enslavement worse than death itself."
That was correct. Being forced to serve someone faithfully was a form of torture. It was better to die than become someone with no mind. But he knew deep down Tomi would have to serve Mariah – the King would not let a test subject find a way to die. Aarin remained quiet. He would need to find a way to rescue Tomi from the evil clutches of Chiria and restore his memory. If he failed in the task, Tomi would become one of them and destroy his own people.
Durnan further explained King Strongheart's wishes. "King Strongheart believes a Natural can become a Learned," he said. "But he won't think like a Natural."
It was beginning to make more sense to Aarin now. King Strongheart planned to use a Natural to serve his best interests – eradicating all Naturals from the continent of Maethein. Turn friend against friend. Using a Natural's superior power and combining that with intensive knowledge about how to use that power only meant trouble for the Naturals.
"As much as I'd love to fight you right here and now, I'm afraid I can't afford to waste my energy," Aarin said. He turned his horse around, and issued his men to follow. "Come men. We must prepare for the jousting competition. Sir Jonas will be arriving with his Madam Lena for the tournament in a day. We best be prepared for their arrival."
He picked up the reigns of his horse and kicked his horse roughly, jolting the animal into a forward charge. His men followed, kicking leaves up into the air. Aarin lowered his staff. Blood and been spared for today, but he knew much blood would be spilled in the future. He turned away from the opening and took the path Vengaul had taken.
Reviews much appreciated : D