14 – Country Life

Kaito nodded his head and set course towards the village of Rylian. It took several days to reach the small village with our loaded down wagon. Kaito kept a close eye on his friend each night when we made camp. The prince remained clothed in his motley colored attire. He wished to avoid any attention to himself. He was certain that his mother had informed all of Agrona of his recent actions. That a reward was being offered to keep an eye for the renegade prince. A small village appeared on the horizon bathed in the light from the crimson sun. The villagers stood watching us as we clambered in to village. Their eyes bored into us and tried to determine if we were a threat or not.

"Why are they staring at us?" Kaito asked.

"They are trying to figure out what to do with us. Whether or not they can trust us. I get the feeling that something is amiss here."

Kaito unstrapped me from his back. Curiousity took a hold of me. What was he planning? He gave me a light toss high into the air and caught me again, testing my weight. The villagers were drawn in by the spectacle. The young prince performed a lavish sword dance for the simple townsfolk. Tossing me around with relative ease, lighting me on fire, and demonstrating his skill with the blade. Twirling me around with a sense of grace and ability. He would toss me high in the air then catch me swiftly sliding into a difficult display of swordsmanship. Stabbing and striking the air with precision. Intense flames danced around the prince, moving in time with Kaito. Trying to devour our forms. Looks of horror and worry filled the eyes of the villagers. Fearful that the prince would be engulfed in the savage flames. I moved fluidly through the fire as the prince weaved about the embers. I sliced through the air like butter. Beads of sweat trickled down Kaito's brow. As soon as the fire appeared it was gone. The display came to an end.

A roar of applause filled the village after Kaito was done with his performance. He gave an elegant bow as several of the men came to clap him on the back. The villagers returned to their work after the short distraction.

"So what brings ya here young 'un?" a man with a thick drawl asked.

"I needed a place to look after my brother. He is really weak. I almost lost him," he sadly explained, tears filling his eyes.

The villagers took pity the distraught prince. Placing hands on his shoulders, trying to comfort the poor boy.

"We were forced to flee Dragoslav. I'm sure you've heard about the troubles going on in the capitol. The knights assumed that my brother was actually Aleron. They tried to kill him. We were going to tell the tale about Aleron conquering the ogre."

Tears were streaming down Kaito's face by now. His speech was breaking up and slurring together. The villagers shushed the weeping boy only to take him to the one place large enough to house the extra people. A newly remodeled town hall. With all the recent attacks people are flocking to the smaller villages, figuring that they were safer than the larger cities. Villages were having trouble fitting all the fleeing refugees in. I found out that the rebuilding was still slow going in Necrial, who refused to accept any more people.

The town hall was a simple two story wooden structure. A very plain and basic building. The two front doors slid open to reveal the vast inside. Bed rolls replaced where the long wooden benches should have been. The blankets were spread out across the floor. Oil lamps lit the once empty hall. People were scattered about mingling with other unfortunate souls.

"It is not much but we hope this will help," a plain woman told the prince.

Kaito only nodded his silent thanks. The woman dismissed herself as he heaved Aleron over his shoulders, setting out to find an empty bed for his friend. The prince found a secluded corner to claim as his own. He hastily retrieved his belongings from the wagon. After giving the unconscious male a quick glance over and setting him down firmly on the blanket the prince slipped off into dreamland. I was placed above Aleron head. The prince's belongings were bundled up near me.

The days melded together. Aleron continued to slumber, unable to awaken. A constant look of pain on his face. The prince left me alone with Aleron much of the time. He was off doing whatever he pleased. I never asked him what he was doing. I didn't really care. I aligned myself with Aleron's magic, trying to stabilize the sleeping knight.

A younger version of Aleron was running terrified through the darkness. Crimson hair flopped wildly behind him. Cerulean blue eyes searched for some kind of reprieve. The darkness tried to consume him, grabbing at the young boy. Something foreign was in the darkness. Something that didn't belong.

"Stay away from me," Aleron shouted.

A creature emerged cloaked in the color of the night. Blending in with it's surroundings completely. The only thing that was visible was bright red eyes, hungrily staring at us in the dark. Concentrated on the young male, like it's only desire was to eat Aleron. A menacing claw reached for the terrified youth.

"You have to fight it," I coaxed.

"I can't. I'm scared."

"There is nothing to be afraid of. I will help you."

Aleron let out a small whimper. The creature only grew larger. Did it feed off fear and uncertainty? I appeared in his small hands.

"Don't let go of me," I said.

The boy was more confident now that I was in his hands. He held me both hands. I was too long for the child to be held with one hand. He stared the beast down. Willing it into submission. The creature roared and lashed out against Aleron. The jumped aside in the nick of time bring me around in an arc. I bit into the flesh of the creature, severing an arm. Blood gushed out the appendage. The creature reeled back in pain, howling.

"Just leave me alone," Aleron shouted.

I sliced the creature's head clean off. The head thudded to the ground noisily. A smile spread on Aleron's face.

"Thank you," he whispered before he disappeared into a bright flash of light.

Violent coughing quickly caught my attention. Aleron had pulled the gag out of his mouth. He rolled onto his side, staring sidelong at me. Confusion was etched onto his face. He glanced around the room baffled.

"Where?" he asked before another fit of coughing assaulted him.

He rolled back onto his back to ease his pain. His coughing subsided a little.

"Rylian Town Hall. Currently transformed into a shelter for refugees," I explained.

"Who brought me here? How long as it been?"

"Kaito is the one who risked everything to bring you here a couple of weeks ago. Before that, we were imprisoned at the Academy for who knows how long. My guess is about a week."

Aleron groaned internally. I did not tell him about being wanted for treason or his scheduled execution. He probably already knew about it, or can at least guess it.

"About time you woke up lazy bones."

"Kaito," Aleron said and looked up at his smiling friend.

"Guess I don't need these anymore," Kaito said, disappointed. The prince was holding a small bag in his hands. He sat down near me and set the bag on the other side of me. A light clatter of objects hitting each other.

"What are those?" Aleron asked.

"Smelling salts," the prince explained. "They are suppose to wake slumbering people. I didn't want you to miss all the fun."

Aleron laughed but had to cringe in pain. His body looked like it was wracked with

pain. The two males chatted over the next few days, while Aleron recovered his strength quickly. Aleron was able to walk short distances without becoming too exhausted. He was almost back to full health. The two males was resting quietly when a group of three loudly entered the hall.

"I can't believe we are not allowed to go back to Necrial. You guys use to live there," a female voice protested loudly.

"There is nothing we can do about it," an older male voice chided.

"We would have had a place to stay here but your sword had to go and ruin it, Kera," a younger man stated.

"Nate, she didn't know about the sword. Leave her alone."

"You are always taking her side, Dad."

The pair continued to argue back and forth loudly, oblivious to their surroundings. Their three figures were positioned apart in the middle of the town hall. Kera and Nate stood facing Nate's blacksmith father, Rayce. Aleron and Kaito awoke begrudgingly to the noisy trio, displeased their sleep was interrupted.

Kera was wearing her usual outfit of a black cotton tunic in a tank top style design, brown pants, and her supple leather boots. I noticed that her vibrant purple hair had grown some in the past few weeks. It was now kept tied back into a high ponytail. Her once fierce golden eyes held a softer glow to them now.

Nate was in a simple grey tunic, leather pants, and dark leather boots. A small golden bracelet with a tiny silver hammer on his still on his left wrist. His messy brown hair still resembled a bird's nest. Never having the pleasure of meeting a comb. His emerald eyes darted back and forth between Kera and his father.

Rayce always wore dark brown leather pants, a white shirt and aged heavy leather boots. His sandy brown hair was disheveled mess, and his emerald eyes looked weary and fed up with arguing with his son.

"Will you keep it down," a disgruntled individual shouted.