“I Was Called” is the first book in my series The Saga of Montairyus. In this page I will give you the first two chapters of the book which generally sum up the plot to “I Was Called”. Enjoy! Also, please leave comments concerning what you think about the text.
Copyright. All rights reserved. Dominic Sceski “The Saga of Montairyus” © 2014
The night was seemingly calm. Anyone would think that all was well in Thry, a town in the nation of Fadehawk. The land of Thry from the wide pastures to the marketplace behaved naturally; sometimes quiet and still, sometimes ruffled by a cool breeze. There was an air of security in the town too, as if it was convinced that it was safe. For a large house, sturdy and crafted of stone, sat at the edge of one of the many roads running through the town, and within its walls lied the key to this village’s supposed security.
Within a bedroom in the large house, a young man lay in his bed fast asleep. The bedroom was wide and the ceiling was fairly high, lit only by the moonlight which entered through a window above the large bed positioned in the center of the western wall. The floor of the bedroom was made of oak, and the boards were so well polished that as the moonlight washed them they seemed to glow, displaying their spotless and smooth essence. Beneath the bed, as if interrupting the brilliance of the oaken floor, there was a carpet, and it was made of thick wool, dyed red. Opposite of the bed there was a great wardrobe, which possessed all of the fanciful clothing that the young man possessed, and beside the wardrobe there was a suit of armor mounted on the wall. The room, and the house altogether, was fit for a noble. Who then was this young man, asleep on his bed?
He was a young knight and lord of Thry. Many people were under this young lord’s dominion and had to do his bidding, but he was innocent at heart and didn’t burden his people with heavy taxes or long days on the demesne—the farms which supplied his food. Yet, as the lord of his people, and a considerate one, he was a person who would normally experience the weight of duty, and with this much anxiety. However, he didn’t let the weight of his duties or anxieties poison the sleep he needed to carry out his responsibilities; his mind was utterly clear and calm, like a still lake. Indeed, he was comfortable in his long bed, and it was long because he was taller than most men. His brown hair, which fell almost to his shoulders, fluttered as wind from an open window tossed it from side to side and it resulted in a soft brush against his cheek. In his thin face he had gentle and round, deep-set blue eyes, which were hidden as he slept. There had been a loss of gentleness in the young man’s eyes though, replaced by a sense of grief and sadness, for his father was dead. His father had been a knight and had been killed in battle many years ago, and now his son, the young man, had taken up his title as knight and lord. It had taken a great deal of strength for the young man to overcome his sorrow, but he had come to accept his father’s death and his strength of spirit was reflected in the muscular build of his body. The young knight and lord’s name was Terren son of Shrane—Shrane, now passed—and his mother had remarried a nobleman named Efelnid shortly after his true father’s death. Recently, his mother had conceived with Efelnid and the time was nearing for the baby to be born.
Terren was not encountering any dreams. Tranquility was only what he felt. Though it was in the middle of summer, the air was cool, and most comfortable to sleep in. Yet, he suddenly experienced a disturbance in his sleep, hearing a sound like something was being scratched or scraped. Terren, barely conscious, began to drift back into his pure sleep after the noise passed. But another time he heard the sound, and it was closer than the first, or perhaps louder, but in any case it prompted him to open his eyes slightly. Terren remembered that on the first floor of the house he had servants who awaited his call during the night. He once again closed his eyes, sure that it was the servants who had caused the sound.
Terren turned from his side onto his back as a blissful unawareness enveloped his mind. For another few moments, he slept quietly. Then, as the wind blew through the window above Terren’s bed, it made his sword—which was poorly placed against the side of the wardrobe near the foot of the lord’s bed—fall, and hit Terren’s bedside, whereupon the sword fell to the ground with a clatter. Terren was totally conscious now and was terribly surprised to find that a large beast, hairy, tall, and armed with a long dirk was ever so quietly approaching him. Terren was too confused to make any motion as the figure just stood there, towering in front of him with a dagger in its hand. He had never seen anything like this creature before; in fact, it looked too mythical to be real. “Am I dreaming?” was his first thought. “No,” he corrected himself; he could feel and see everything too clearly.
Finally, the creature moved, raising its dagger. Terren had already been reaching for his sword, so he quickly grasped it and then rolled away from the beast out of his bed and brandished the blade. He dropped the sword’s scabbard, never taking his eyes off of the monster that stood before him.
Terren’s eyes grew wide as the monster cleared his large bed and swung its dirk at his face. Yet, the lord moved forward just in time to stab the beast through the abdomen. The sheer force and weight of the beast falling made Terren stumble to the ground. Undoubtedly, Terren had dealt a killing blow and all comfort that he had felt before left him.
Terren gazed at the monster and wondered what it was. Besides being tall and hairy, it had terrible black, fiery eyes, with a snout like a pig’s and dagger-sharp white teeth. It nearly had the appearance of a bear, but it had human proportions, such that its arms weren’t as long as its legs and it had hands but no claws. Other than the abundance of hair—nearly fur, Terren thought—covering its body, the creature was naked, and it smelled unpleasant. Also, the blood of the beast was black, resembling pitch in nearly all respects.
Terren hadn’t had much time to think since he had been so confused and surprised by the beast, but as he called forth the three servants that were present in his house many questions about the failed assassin arose in his mind. “Why was it trying to kill me?” was his first thought, and then he continued to think about even more important things. “Who sent it? What is it? Are there more?”
As the servants disposed of the monster’s body Terren started to come to a conclusion. His conclusion about this beast brought his heart racing with excitement, but just as much his thoughts filled him with fear. This beast’s kind, if his reckoning was correct, had been in Fadehawk before. The well known name of the battle where Terren’s father, and many other knights and soldiers, had died had become known as the Invasion of the Beasts. Strange creatures, much like this beast, which stood like men but had distorted bodies and terrible, ugly faces, had attacked the Fadehawks killing thousands of warriors. No one in Fadehawk had known who the beasts were or where they had come from. A call to arms had rung throughout the country and all the knights had ridden to the outer wall to defend their land. After the battle was over and the invaders had been defeated, the king had sent out scouts to find the strange nation in order to launch a counterstrike to repay the lives they had taken from Fadehawk. However, even up to the present day when the scouts periodically returned they had no new information of the strange creatures that had attacked, and a whole ten years had passed since the invasion. The people of Fadehawk, though still longing to launch a counterstrike, became more indifferent as to whether the nation of beasts was found. Terren, although he didn’t show it, however, was still determined to find the nation of beasts that had killed his father. But his duties to his king and people prohibited him from taking part in the search for the beasts. Nonetheless, he believed that now he could bring hope to Fadehawk’s hunt with the knowledge that the beasts still existed.
Terren quickly dressed himself as if he were to do his daily duties; his thoughts were still racing, and he had to hasten to the castle of Thry to spread the news of the assassin and his possible origin. If this was a beast from the nation that had attacked Fadehawk then this would be quite a lead in Fadehawk’s search for the nation. It would at least prove that there perhaps still was a nation of beasts, not vanished from the face of Montairyus as the Fadehawks were beginning to believe. He could kindle the Fadehawks’ hearts with the once forgotten desire to seek and repay the harm the beasts had done them.
As Terren strapped his sword to his belt his eyes fell on the beaten and worn crossguard of the sword. The sword had been his father’s before him. An image passed through his mind of his dead father. His armor had been coated in blood, his arm had been impaled with an arrow, and his sword had been still firm in his hand. The fellow knights of Terren’s father had brought him to his family shortly after the battle. As if his mother stood next to him, Terren could remember her cry of woe when she had seen her husband dead. Terren had been struck with disbelief, but when he had recovered from his sorrow he had felt determined to bring vengeance to the nation that had attacked Fadehawk. He hadn’t been able to go on the scouting missions since his duties to Thry held him back from such things, but he still felt honored to take up his father’s title.
The very notion that Terren had almost been assassinated caused him to fear for the safety of his town and especially for his mother, Kaira, who lived in the village. Though he cared about all the people in Thry he of course was most concerned about his mother. This was why Terren had decided to live in the town and not in a castle like other lords; he wanted to protect his mother, who refused to live in the castle. Hastily he mounted his horse, Stormflash, and rode away towards his mother’s home.
The air was cool around him. Thry seemed to maintain such a peaceful look even in the dead of night. From Thry River the water flowed softly and peacefully, murmuring like a child drifting into a quiet sleep. The trees that shadowed the moonlit world didn’t cast a frightful gaze on Terren; they looked like gentle giants overseeing and protecting their people. Even the forests, a stronghold of trees, were comforting, for they stood like guardians of nature. The forests were open to outsiders and through their branches that waved in the wind they invited guests into their wooded realms. The sky was star-filled—a glorious sight, but Terren had no time to admire it.
The villagers were all sleeping. Most of Thry’s buildings were constructed of wood, some log cabins, and others with thatched roofs, but some were built of stone, and those that were built of stone were usually smaller. From many stables or farms Terren could hear the lowing of the animals that were awakened or disturbed by Stormflash’s gallop. Terren passed a few schoolhouses that were built here and there around Thry, for Fadehawk was an affluent country, with many scholars and learned men, and children could be educated even if they came from a peasant family.
The stone roads beneath Stormflash0’s clacking hooves could take someone to the many places of Fadehawk, leading one throughout the local towns or cities or into the countryside. Terren turned Stormflash to the street that led in the direction of his mother’s house and rode quickly there. Once he arrived he knocked on the door of the house; the ground at his feet was lit by a latern. His knock was rather loud and frantic, but he was worried that perhaps his mother had been attacked by an assassin too. “If you don’t come quick, mother, then I’m breaking the door down,” thought the lord to himself.
As Terren prepared to break down the entrance to his mother’s home he heard the lock being undone from the otherside of the door. He put his hand on his sword, in case the person behind the door wasn’t his mother, Efelnid, or one of their guards. The door opened and Efelnid appeared. His thin face looked tired and his curly fair hair looked distorted from him sleeping on it. Efelnid was tall, thinner than Terren, but he still had a muscular build to his upper body. “Is something wrong, Terren?” asked Efelnid, cocking his head at Terren.
“I was worried something was wrong here,” replied Terren. Quickly, Terren recounted what had happened at his home and ignored the looks of terror and incomprehension on Efelnid’s face. “I just wanted to be sure you and my mother were safe,” ended Terren.
“I will be sure to alert our guards,” nodded Efelnid.
Then Terren bade Eflenid farewell—after hurriedly replying to his step-father’s frantic inquires—and left for Thry Castle, the castle of the three surrounding towns, with three individual lords, of which Terren was one. Terren rode between many fields, some of which were being planted by his farm tenants, and between tall wooded forests. Finally, he reached the castle of Thry, Yoril, and Flasael.
Thry Castle had a defensive structure. It was, oddly enough, shaped like a triangle, with a tall tower at each end of the wall. The tower facing the east was the tallest, for it was the look-out tower. The walls had many guards on it, some with horns so they could signal more guards that resided in the fortress. Within the castle walls was a wide and tall rectangular building, the keep, and though it had no king to hold, it was inhabited by the nobles and ladies of Thry, Yoril, and Flasael. The keep possessed windows for guards to see out into the courtyard, and the walls of the fortress were crenelated—possessing gaps between stone blocks atop the wall—so that the watchmen could look out into the lands beyond to see if trouble was afoot.
The guards, as was their duty—especially during the night—asked who Terren was from the walls high above. When Terren stated his name they let him into the castle and asked—out of curiousity and in order that they might help—what his business was at the castle. “I have come to see Governor Yurince,” said Terren, making his voice sound husky.
The guards tended to Stormflash and Terren was taken into the keep. There was a grand and large door at the front of the keep. Two guards were positioned on each side of the door, and when they saw Terren being escorted by the gate-guards they made no effort to question whether he could enter. Terren didn’t wait for the guards to open the large wooden doors for him, as he knew they would; he strode forward at a quicker stride and pushed both halves of the door, too excited for any delay to occur. The metal hinges of the door squeaked as Terren pushed the entryway open and the decorative metal lines that crossed horizontally on the door felt cold under the knight’s hands.
Terren walked into the entrance hall. The floor was tiled with tawny colored limestone and in the center of the room there was a round red carpet with a large silver F in the center of the fabric. Around the F, just for decoration, there was a black circle, and within the black circle there was one of silver. The whole foyer was shaped like a rectangle with a ceiling of medium height and in the center of the ceiling there hung a lit chandelier. There were no windows in the room, so it was from the chandelier that the only source of light came, which was bleak and yellow, casting an ugly glare on the room. A stone staircase was directly in front from Terren, and a creamy colored marble banister was placed around the staircase, and it followed the steps up to the entrance of a hallway. In each wall on either side of the lord there were two large doors, both of which led to a storeroom for the keep’s supplies and food.
“Please wait here, my Lord,” said a guard to Terren. The guard proceeded to the staircase and hurried up the steps, his armor clanking against the stone and his sword jingling from his belt. Terren sighed and crossed his arms, waiting for the guards return, impatient with excitement. He tried to look sophisticated and appealing, simply to enhance his character for the governor. The governors of Fadehawk didn’t rank very high above the lords of Fadehawk’s towns and cities, but they were treated with respect by the king and their position required much labor. The lords of Fadehawk, in a way, helped the governors manage the country, taking it upon themselves to take charge of certain towns or cities. The governors though were closer to the king, being his advisors, so the lords had to yield to them since they were so highly thought of by the king, helping the king govern such a large and wonderful country as Fadehawk.
Finally out of the doorway at the top of the stairs came the guard who had gone to fetch the governor and the governor himself following close behind. Terren sighed, keeping a straight face and a determined look, but inside his heart was still racing with excitement. The lord raised his chin as Yurince stepped off the last step of the stairs and proceeded towards Terren, his arms swaying in short, swift strokes as he walked.
Yurince was a tall man for his old age, but he was still shorter than Terren. His head was nearly bald, with clumps of hair near his ears and the back of his head. Yurince didn’t have much of a build, and he was quite thin and his arms small, but his cheeks, oddly enough, were fuller, unlike his body. His eyes were brown, and they were small and thin, appearing very hard and piercing. He was dressed much like Terren; a red hosen covering his legs and a black jerkin of leather. However, whereas Terren wore black leather boots, the governor only wore pointed black shoes. Yurince did not take any time to greet Terren, “Lord Terren, why have you come to awake me during the night? What news do you bring?” He was evidently grumpy at being awakened from his sleep.
“I have news about our search for the Beasts,” answered Terren evenly.
At this Governor Yurince seemed to grow more interested and attentive. His previous somnolent countenance almost vanished immediately. He motioned for Terren to continue.
“I was attacked,” began Terren, “by a monster in Thry. It was tall, very broad, covered in fur, and it stood like a man. It carried a dagger and wore armor. It had large eyes, a large nose, and was capable of being stealthy even though it was so large.”
Yurince held a terrified look on his face. He stared at Terren, his eyes widened, most likely contemplating all that Terren had said. “Did you kill this beast?” asked the governor.
“Yes, it is dead.”
“Do you think there are more?”
“That’s part of the reason I’m here; we need to send squads of soldiers throughout Thry and, if necessary, to the other cities and villages of Fadehawk.”
Yurince nodded, “Yes, that shall be done.”
“I also believe that this beast is of the same nation that invaded our country.”
Yurince nodded is head, “Yes, yes, it has to be; what else could it be than of the nation of those horrible monsters? If it isn’t, then how many nations of beasts could there be? And anyway, if there were many nations of beasts then how could have our scouts overlooked them if there were many?”
For the first time in the governor’s presence Terren smiled. He was glad to have Yurince agreeing with him. Now he could actively seek to discover the nation that had attacked Fadehawk a decade ago. “I want a team of forty soldiers to ride with me back to Thry,” stated Terren, “we will ride swiftly to ensure the people of Thry’s safety.”
Yurince nodded, “Very well. I shall also send messengers to Fladir, Etvox, Eletier, and Astermore.” He named the four main cities of Fadehawk.
As Terren turned to proceed out of the keep he thought of something rather important to keep the peace in Fadehawk. “Governor Yurince!” he alerted Yurince as the governor began to ascend the staircase.
The governor turned to Terren, and the lord continued, “Wake Lord Kyocure and Lord Lockhem, and tell them what has happened and counsel them to have their towns on guard. But also, make sure to tell the riders not to spread fear throughout Fadehawk. I think this shouldn’t be kept a secret from the people, but it shouldn’t create chaos in Fadehawk.”
Yurince’s face became stern and determined as he replied, “You are a wise man, Terren.”
Terren nodded his head once in return and turned away out of the keep. As the large wooden doors closed behind him Terren stood on the wide flat step that stood before the keep. From somewhere he heard a bell ring and then the sound of feet thudding against the ground. At a hasty but dignified stride Terren walked to the stable that was at the rear of the western corner of the castle. There he found a stable boy who led him to Stormflash. He thanked the stable boy and then led Stormflash out of the stable where soldiers who had received Terren’s orders through the governor were already gathering.
Terren greeted the soldiers. Each of the soldiers wore nasal helmets, chain-mail armor and had swords on their belts. The soldiers all had a grim expression on their face, and a determined one too, which Terren liked.
As Terren prepared to mount Stormflash one of the soldiers approached him and said, “My Lord, Governor Yurince wishes you to have this.” He held out to Terren a red cloak with a silver F decorating its back.
Terren thought that it was a very good piece of attire. “Give the governor my thanks,” he replied. He pinned two corners of the cloak together around his throat, and then let it drop from his shoulders, the cape hanging down onto Stormflash’s back.
“Make ready!” he yelled to all the soldiers, “Mount up! We’re riding to Thry to investigate whether or not the same beasts that attacked us at the Invasion of the Beasts are back in Fadehawk secretly. This very night I was attacked by one, and now we ride to see and ensure that the rest of the people in Thry are safe.”
From the stable Terren and the soldiers rode to the gate. As they neared the exit, Terren shouted to the guards atop the wall, “Raise the portcullis and open the gate!” The guards quickly did his bidding, the sounds of chains jingling as they operated the gears to open the gate and raise the portcullis, and Terren and the soldiers rode out of Thry Castle towards the town of Thry, resolute and grim.
Only when the moon started to fade and dawn began to shine from the horizion did the countryside take on a different appearance. The sky was only brightening at this point in the morning and as it brightened it pushed away the dark gray haze that covered the beautiful deep blue color of the sky. As Terren passed by the forests around the countryside he could hear the birds already awake, chirping loudly, singing, and squawking. Even in some of the fields and farmlands he could see the bobbing heads of birds searching for breakfast on the ground or from the plants that farmers grew. As dawn approached Terren could see throughout the forests the trees and bushes that grew deep within the woods that guarded the outer-rims of the forest. There was a peaceful look on the soft pines that carried a delightful scent from within the forests and moss that grew on the banks of ravines sparkled with the morning dew.
By the time Terren and the soldiers reached Thry a couple farmers were at work with their children. The whole way from Thry Castle to Terren’s home-town Terren had been devising ways to explain the situation of what was happening to any inquisitive villagers while still maintaing the peace. Many times in months past Terren had gone about the town riding to and fro on Stormflash talking to the villagers and asking about their welfare. Sometimes, when it was seemly, Terren would help them with their work. In any case, he didn’t let himself be used, and the villagers didn’t dare to try to manipulate him. Terren helped the townspeople of his own will, and they respected the lord enough not to exploit his assistance. As Terren had conversed with the townspeople and greeted them heartily he had gained their trust and friendship which had been, and was, his most desired goal. Now he hoped that they would trust him that he and the soldiers with him wouldn’t let anything bad happen to the villagers on account of the possibility of “beasts” being in Thry.
As Terren continued to think of ways to settle the anxiety that might come from curious townspeople he saw a farmer coming towards him. Next to the farmer’s house was chopped wood piled high, nearly to the roof. Gardening tools were placed by a storage house made of maple wood. The farmer’s house was made of stone with two flower beds outlined by small rocks and in the flower beds grew violet colored flowers. A walkway had been made to the wooden porch, which was made entirely of long flat boards. Over the wooden porch was an awning of pine-wood beams suspended by two oaken pillars. A square chimney was built on the northern front corner of the house and from it plumes of smoke wafted into the clear morning air. Up the fringe of the southern side of the house grew a collection of wide-leaved vines and they curved and twisted around each other and around any other surrounding plants that they could bring into their grasp. Terren reined in his steed and the soldiers followed.
“Lord Terren,” said the farmer, a long faced, blue eyed, brown haired man with bushy eye-brows that hung so low they were nearly in his eyes. “What news? Why have you brought so many soldiers? Is something wrong?”
Terren spoke carefully; he couldn’t allow his words to come out impulsively and scare the farmer. “We don’t know for certain,” began Terren, speaking slowly and wording what he planned to say in his mind before speaking, but he kept his voice dignified and fluent, as if he knew what he meant to say, “but there is a possibility that the same beasts who attacked us on the Invasion of the Beasts have returned. I was attacked by what we, the authorities, think was a beast and we are here to protect the town and to investigate. You are not to worry though; I advise that you remain indoors for today, and everything will be fine. Those beasts won’t be able to do anything against our trained men, and as far as I know, no one else in Thry has been attacked. You must trust me that you are safe and that we will keep the people of Thry safe.” As the farmer stared at Terren, evidently deep in thought, showing no expression at all—which at least meant he didn’t show fear—Terren thought to himself, “This is a test to see if I have gained the people’s trust or not.”
“I trust you, my Lord,” the farmer then said, “tell me if there’s anything I can do to help.” And the farmer walked away into his house.
Once the farmer was out of hearing range Terren turned to the soldiers who awaited his command, “If anyone asks what is going on, you will reply precisely as I did. Do not make this investigation more suspenseful for the people than what it has to be.”
The light of day finally mounted over the darkness and cleansed the sky of the overcast gray. The leaves of the trees brightened and the water that flowed down Thry River became illuminated from the sun’s rays and sparkled from the shiny stones at the river-floor reflecting the light. The townspeople were now officially beginning their day of work.
“We are splitting up into groups of ten,” said Terren to the soldiers. He pointed as he talked, “You ten go to the northern side of Thry; you ten go to the western; you ten go to eastern; and you nine come with me to the south. If anyone asks what is going on you will answer like I did. Report back to me and at the castle to the governor if you’ve discovered anything concerning beasts in Fadehawk. Move out!”
Terren and his nine soldiers rode to the southern part of Thry which was where Terren’s house was built. The group passed over Thry Bridge and began their investigation. When they saw it necessary, they asked questions to the villagers if they had heard or seen anything unusual in Thry. The questions Terren asked though were made to sound just like he was kindly inquiring, not like there was anything unusual or overly dangerous afoot, simply as if he was asking if the villagers had seen any crimes committed. If the townspeople seemed leery about Terren’s questions and inquired what Terren was doing with his nine soldiers Terren would reply calmly with answers like, “We are doing a bit of investigating concerning the same beasts that attacked us on the Invasion of the Beasts; nothing serious as of yet.”, and things of the sort. And as with the farmer who had asked of Terren’s business and received, the other townspeople trusted Terren, and though some of them showed signs of fear, they did not panic. As Terren advised, most of them returned to their homes.
For the rest of that day Terren searched Thry and asked questions to the townspeople only to gain no information. Nobody else in Thry had been attacked, no one was missing a family member, nothing had been stolen from anyone, and there was no trace whatsoever of any beast being in Thry.
By the time the day was finished Terren was terribly hungry. He had skipped his breakfast and afternoon meal. When he returned to his house he had his cooks prepare for him a large meal. He ate hungrily all of the food made for him; smoked trout, baked bread, and spiced venison, along with a mug of ale. When Terren went up the winding stairs to his bedroom to retire for the night he cast a glance at the windows of the upper rooms. It was obvious that the “beast” had come through a window, for none of Terren’s servants down on the first story of the house had seen anything or been killed. He wished he could block the windows with something, even though the cool night breeze tempted him not to, for he didn’t want to take the risk of being assassinated. At the least for this night, Terren told one of his servants to await his call upstairs as opposed to downstairs, so perhaps he could warn Terren if anything was stirring. However, Terren decided to post a guard outside, lest anyone or anything try to sneak up on him again.
Hardly able to think any longer for fatigue had nearly taken over his body, Terren dropped onto his bed and slept.
When Terren woke the sun was just beginning to rise on the horizion decorating the sky with speckles of white light and a golden orange gleam. There was a moist scent and thickness to the air and there was a layer of glittering dew on the ground and even on the some of the evergreen bushes in the forest that grew behind Terren’s home.
The cooks of Terren’s house, as they were supposed to, made Terren breakfast every morning, and it was usually ready before he awoke. Whatever his cooks made him was always to his liking. Terren ate what he could in the short amount of time he took to eat his meal, which consisted of freshly baked bread, eggs, and mutton.
Terren’s main business at the castle included hearing whether any of his soldiers had gathered any information concerning the investigation. The other soldiers had searched to no avail. After learning that the soldiers, like himself, hadn’t discovered anything about “beasts” in Thry, Terren inquired about the other cities and towns of Fadehawk. Yurince said that all the cities had reported that they too had failed to find anything concerning the “beasts”. “Eletir has yet to reply, though,” Yurince told Terren, and Terren yearned to know if that city had fared well. While he was at Thry Castle, he ordered a sentinel of eight soldiers to guard his home, and five more to his mother’s. Afterward, and merely out of custom, Terren was given assurance that the villagers were bearing the situation regarding the beasts well, and that they were continuing their regular work of providing food for Terren, their lord. This knowledge was given—quickly, at Terren’s bidding—to the lord by the reeve of Thry—an official that worked beneath Terren and made sure the townspeople and peasants were behaving properly, especially in regards to how they provided for their lord. The reeve also acted as a sort of representative for the villagers, and was assigned the duty to bring to Terren reasonable plights that the peasants might have.
Though it seemed less eventful the second day, Terren took up thereafter his search for any signs of “beasts” in Fadehawk. He searched with a group of soldiers long and hard. They searched the forests for strange markings or foot-prints and the farm fields to see if any produce was unusually knocked over or stolen. By the end of the day, Terren was exhausted and frustrated at his lack of success. Perhaps, Terren had been the target of one particular beast, or this beast was simply a loner from the nation of beasts that had attacked Fadehawk and sought only to do an evil act. Whatever the case, Terren could not conclude why the beast had tried to kill him.
By the next morning Terren, refreshed, awoke to a cool breeze. He found motivation for the events of the day and a sense of duty as the villagers smiled at him as he rode through Thry. The people of Thry needed him; he was their lord and they were thankful for the kindness he often showed towards them.
Today, he inquired at the castle whether Governor Yurince had any news yet from Eletir. Like all the other cities and towns, Eletir also appeared to be free of any beasts. During Terren’s short visit to Thry Castle, Yurince spoke to Terren saying, “Terren, I think well of you for being very attentive to your investigation. However, I do not think that you should be the one searching for clues. We have experts to do this, and in fact we have two coming from Astermore. You must be a lord to Thry, not an investigator. You may oversee the work, but I don’t think it is proper that you take so much time participating in the hunt. Besides, you have other duties, and you are wearing yourself down. Remember, though it appears as if the nation of the beasts has once again shown itself and disappeared, at least we know that our people are safe now, and you returning to your normal duties will convey that.”
Terren understood the governor’s point. Yes, he would definitely continue to oversee the work, but he had other duties to the people and he was certainly exhausting himself.
The hours passed as Terren attended many meetings concerning the town and meeting with the soldiers who kept order among the town and those who were partaking in the investigation. When afternoon came, Terren returned to his home to dine. At his home, a messenger delivered an invitation from his mother. It read:
Terren, I will give birth to our child very soon.
I wish that you come to celebrate when the baby is born.
I shall send a messenger when the time is right for you to come.
Love, your mother
Terren immediately smiled after he had finished reading. His mother and step-father Efelnid had been married for a while, and Terren was fond of Efelnid, and he was happy for them both.
It was midsummer, and during that time Terren’s house was more beautiful than during any other season. Towards the main road a group of irises grew and behind them closer to Terren’s home was a group of roses. A holly tree with wide leaves grew tall and shadowed the southern side of the house. Terren’s home was completely constructed out of tawny colored stones. The northern side of the house was constructed much like a turret and it narrowed to a point. There were two windows on the small stone-cylinder, one near the summit and the other halfway up. The southern side of the house was unlike the northern side; it had a slanted roof top, and like the northern it had two windows placed at the top and one halfway upwards. Just south of Terren’s home, there was also a small stable that was built on the brim of a fenced field where Terren’s horses were free to gallop and graze.
The next day, Sunday, was decreed by the king of Fadehawk to be a day of rest for all of the nobles of Fadehawk. They didn’t need to partake in any politics at the castles and were to be left alone by the citizens so that they could enjoy themselves. Terren, though, saw it only fit that he check on the soldiers and trackers that were still working on the investigation. One of the trackers, a tall and thin man named, Tarnat, came to Terren’s house to investigate around the lord’s house. Terren had been inside his home when Tarnat arrived. “You see,” said Tarnat, leading Terren to his backyard, “these grooves that are made from the alignment of the bricks,” the tracker pointed to the stone bricks that made Terren’s house, specifically the lines in-between each brick. “If you look at these bricks right here,” continued Tarnat, pointing to two lower bricks that were about in the center of the eastern wall, “You can see that there are odd scratch markings starting from these two blocks and ascending to that window,” the tracker pointed to a window that was shy of twenty feet upwards. “And here,” Tarnat went on, “you can see that about six feet above these marks are crudely made holes.” It was true, Terren saw. Tarnat went on to conclude, and Terren agreed with his answer, “I suspect that the beast that attacked you climbed up this wall to your window where it entered your house.”
After that, Tarnat searched for any more clues about which way the beast came from, but to no avail. He left soonafter and Terren thanked him for investigating his home.
Why Terren saw it necessary not to investigate and scour his house first for clues was that he worried for the townspeople. He thought it would be better to see that he took the effort first to make sure they were safe, and then he himself.
Terren walked outside, it was a cool day and he found it more enjoyable to walk than ride, and walked to the edge of Thry and met with a few guards regarding the investigation. They hadn’t found anything out of the ordinary and the trackers with them had nothing to report. So Terren continued walking peacefully throughout Thry, relaxing. He strolled to Thry Bridge where he leaned on the stone balustrade. The bridge had been about since the making of Thry. It was a creamy white color and every year, a painter would come and replenish the dulling paint swirls of green that twirled over the banister. Beneath the bridge clear water flowed softly down the river and it reflected the sky and the bright sun. The air was still and fragrant from the tall pines that grew across from the bridge. A finch flew across the boulevard to the pines where it commenced to sing while Terren observed children at play while he thought about his mother, and Efelnid, and of the coming newborn.
The Fadehawk lord was highly respected by his people. Terren treated his people and town with kindness and in return it was given back. All of Thry knew that he was a peacekeeper and while he enjoyed relaxing and reclining amongst the beautiful landscapes as he was doing now he did not slack in work. Perhaps some nobles would like to settle in their castles for relaxation, but not Terren; he preferred to sit outside in the sun and let the singing birds calm him.
Terren looked to his left; there walked a man towards a house with a bucket of water from Thry River. As Terren returned his gaze to the soft flowing river he felt a strong breeze as if someone had passed him at great speed. He became alert as a quick shriek was let out and as the villagers gasped. Terren detected only one difference after the shriek; across the river Thry the man carrying the bucket had vanished and his bucket was overturned spilling water across the ground. Terren sped across the bridge. Caution and confusion stirred within Terren as he neared where the man had been. Around him the world appeared troubled; even the birds were squawking uncomfortably from their dwellings.
When Terren arrived to where he had last seen the man he saw the bucket of spilled water, and over to his right he saw a red liquid that he determined was blood upon the ground. There was a strange mysterious feeling inside of him, like he had felt this uncertainty before, and a gradual suspicion arising. He felt slow, hesitant to act. Without meaning to, Terren recalled an image of the beast that had attacked him a few days ago. He turned, seeing that the villagers stood around him, watching him with worried faces and dismayed and distressed hearts.
A young girl stepped forward, “If, it helps, my lord, I–I saw a black figure swiftly move past the man. Then he was gone…my lord.”
Terren nodded, casting his eyes to the ground in thought. Then he raised his voice, shouting, “Did anyone else see anything? Are any of you akin to this man?”
The villagers uncomfortably shook there heads, murmuring “no”.
Terren waited a moment longer, expecting someone to give him an answer. “Go away from here; I fear it’s not safe,” Terren said to the villagers when they were silent, straightening his back and putting his hand onto his sword, “and tell some of the local guards to come quickly.” With that, he hastened forward to the house the man was approaching. It was a small stone house, very short, and square. A round chimney was built on the top of the house and the chimney rose into the branches of a wide beech tree. A wooden door was built into the stone of the house and had a wooden frame. Hinges allowed the door to open and close and the door handle curved like a C.
When Terren tried opening the door it fell from the hinges that held it to the wooden frame that was cemented to the stone of the house. To stop it from falling on him, he caught it and then dropped the splintery wood on the ground. He stepped quickly into the house, drawing his sword and pointing it forward. He lowered his sword, and uttered a curse and began looking upon broken cabinets, glass plates, a table, and even a stone hearth that was smashed and crumbled. But his eyes fell to the wounded woman and young man before him.
The woman lay on the stone floor, blood surging from two holes in her stomach. The adolescent lay to Terren’s right in the corner, his body slumped awkwardly, with blood coating his chest. In the young man’s hand was a mere kitchen knife, but it was wet with blood that was not his own. Fear stiffened Terren for a moment, but then a shiver ran through him. The blood on the knife was black.
Terren, utterly astonished, checked to see if either of the two victims were dead. They were, to his disappointment and confusion, and rage grew in his heart.
A strange and muffled cry sounded somewhere in the room. With bewilderment and concern, Terren made his way through the rubble scattered here and there on the house floor to a cradle that was covered with a woolen sheet in the corner of the home. He pulled the fabric off of the cradle revealing a newborn, a boy, which had begun waking from its sleep. At the sight of Terren, it squalled and cried even louder. After sheathing his sword, Terren picked up the baby and held it against his shoulder. Carefully, he made his way out of the house, stopping only to pry the knife from adolescent’s dead fingers.
His thoughts raced through his mind, first wondering on when the fight had taken place. No one had heard the fight ensuing, apparently. Second, if it most definitely was a beast that had attacked the villagers—which Terren thought it certainly was—then how did it slip past the guards of Thry, and especially the soldiers and trackers set on finding any beasts about in the area. And third, if the beast escaped, where was it now?
Just then, from the town ran seven soldiers towards Terren. They were all wearing chain mail and vests with the insignia of a hawk. They had swords on their belts and on their heads were kettle helms. “Sir,” said one of them, “what’s wrong? How can we help?”
Terren quickly explained, “This child’s family has been attacked and killed. I have little doubt that it wasn’t a beast that attacked our nation on the Invasion of the Beasts. There are two dead in the house, a man missing, and this baby needs to be taken to the castle to have a nurse take care of it. But most importantly, whoever or whatever attacked this family has escaped. Secure the area!”
As Terren handed the infant to one of the soldiers, he added, “And deliver all of the information I have told you to the authorites at the castle. I shall not be far behind you.”
The soldier replied, “Yes, Lord Terren!” and then carried out the lord’s orders.
The sun had set. Terren hurried homeward, his mind connecting all that had happened. A beast attacked him and was felled by his own hand. Several days later, a villainous act is committed, almost certainly by a beast, though it amazingly remained unseen. When Terren reached his home, he mounted Stormflash and rode to his mother’s home. There, he warned his mother and Efelnid of the danger that threatened the people of Thry. Efelnid seemed especially worried, for his and Kaira’s child was about to be born.
Thereafter, Terren forthwith galloped away on Stormflash to Thry Castle. The night was coming and Terren found himself exceedingly tired, though the heart-racing happenings kept him alert at all times. He spurred Stormflash faster down the path that winded through the countryside. On his hip underneath his belt, the naked blade of the adolescent rested, the black blood staining its steel.
Terren, upon arriving at Thry Castle, was pleased to find that Lord Kyocure of Flasael and Lord Lockhem of Yoril stood discussing something in the council room, along with Governor Yurince. Terren approached them where they sat around a long, black table, raising his voice and interrupting their speech, “My lords and governer, another blow has been dealt by the nation of beasts.” From his belt, he grabbed the knife of the adolescent held it outwards. In the golden torchlight, the black blood of the beast gleamed like a red fire.
The two lords and governor stared attentively at Terren, but as their gaze shifted to the blade in the table their expression became horrified and confounded. “There blood was as dark as night,” said Terren, quoting Sir Quenivin, a knight who had survived the Invasion of the Beasts and wrote of the horrors of the monsters that had attacked. Terren continued as Yurince took the blade from him and examined it with the other lords, “In Thry, a family was attacked. The mother was killed, and one of her sons who I suspect drove off the beast, using this knife, and the husband was abducted. The youngest of the family, I believe, is already here, by my bidding.” The lords and governor studied the knife a moment longer, but then turned their gaze to Terren, saying nothing, dumbfounded. Terren continued, “We must take action against this. This beast somehow entered Fadehawk. And it is still here, having murdered our people. I am taking sixty more soldiers with me to secure my town.”
“Do as you will, Lord Terren,” said Governor Yurince, “we will do as you advise.”
Terse, Terren bowed to the trio, and then turned to leave. Lord Kyocure called after him, however, and said, “Lord Terren, we were just about to send for you. We have more news concerning the nation of beasts. Our scouts have returned from searching the nation of beasts, and have gathered knowledge from the eastern Rarocks. His Majesty Arkriso will announce the name and origin of the nation at a meeting a week from now in Astermore. Already the nobles from Eletier, Etvox, and Fladir are gathering there.”
Now Terren took his turn at being dumbfounded. He breathed, allowing a sense of understanding and control to settle in. Now they knew. Now Fadehawk knew.
The night resembled the night Terren had been attacked in nearly all ways. He rode to Thry with sixty soldiers following him, this time reaching the town well before dawn. He ordered them to investigate the house where the family had been murdered and the area around Thry Bridge for any trace of the missing man. Terren was exhausted as the sun began to rise as the day cast out the night, and Terren eventually returned to his home around the hour of eight in the morning, unable to keep his eyes open.
He slept for several hours when a servant of his woke him, saying that a messenger had come with news concerning his mother. Terren, not disappointed in his servant for waking him, hurried from his bedroom to the messenger awaiting him in his dining room. The messenger, a page, bowed at the lord’s approach, and then spoke, “My lord, I would like to congratulate you as I tell you that your mother gave birth to a son in the morn of yesterday. She invites you to her home this very day. However, lord, I bring sad tidings that Sir Efelnid has come down with a fever and has been taken in by the Thry’s doctors.”
Terren smiled, happy for his mother and Efelnid, but at the news of Efelnid’s sickness he became worried. “How bad is the fever?” he inquired, not sure if the page would know.
The boy frowned, “I know not, my lord. Lady Kaira says he was not in terrible condition, and that he should recover.”
Terren inclined his head, “Very well, and thank you.”
Then the page departed.
Terren quickly dressed nicely for the occasion, donning a red and brown surcoat with the insignia of Fadehawk upon it—a silver hawk. Then he prepared to ride to his mother’s home. Before departing he checked with the soldiers in order to discover if they had found anything concerning the disappearance of the beast and man. They had failed to find any clues to discern the man or beast’s whereabouts.
The ride to his mother, Kaira, was quiet. It was so quiet, that Terren felt peaceful enough to sleep. There were few birds about, so no squawking or chirping was heard, but from somewhere a single bird could be heard singing so beautifully it delighted Terren. He traveled over Thry Bridge and there the water flowed softly making only a low trickeling sound. Most of Thry’s people were still in the demense, not yet returning for their evening meal.
Upon arriving at his mother’s he tied Stormflash to an oak tree on the side of his mother’s house. His mother’s house was at the bottom of a hill that towered next to the house and the distant farmlands that surrounded Kaira’s home were plush with the farmer’s crops. The house itself was tall, but it was also wide, like a rectangle. It was three stories high, with four windows on each story, and had a round chimney built on the right corner of the building. Terren knocked on the oaken door of the house and his mother gave him a cordial greeting.
Terren’s mother led him to the newborn baby and he looked at the baby in its cradle. The cradle was made of fine smelling pinewood, and the sleeping child within it rested, oblivious to the world. Terren asked, “Have you decided on a name?”
“Earyis,” replied Terren’s mother, hardly with any hesitation.
“An admirable choice,” said Terren, and he smiled as the infant began to wake. Terren glanced at his mother and around her home, “Did you dismiss your guards?”
“They are in the upper room,” she replied, “And my cook has been dismissed after making supper.”
They were silent for a few moments, and then Terren asked, “Have you learned of any more of how Efelnid is?”
Kaira frowned hard, “Efelnid needed to go all the way to the capital.”
“Ah,” said Terren, and a sudden fear began rising in his heart. The capital was where those with terrible illnesses were taken, so the Fadehawk lord realized that Efelnid’s condition must have been bad. “But how are you? You seem to be recovering from the delivery quite quickly.”
“Oh yes, I am getting along quite fine; thank you.”
If one was in the house of Terren’s mother a person always felt at home. In the sitting room where Terren and his mother lounged autumn orange was the floor color, the ceiling plastered white, while the walls were rich brown. A russet colored chair rested next to a stone hearth that was placed in the eastern wall, while across the room from the hearth stood a door to the large kitchen. Tall sweet smelling lilacs rose from a striped clay pot to the left of the stone fireplace. On the right of the stone furnace grew an iris in an identical pot.
Earyis had a dark birth mark below his right eye, his body was small and portly, at least for a baby, and upon his head he had only a morsel of hair. His hands and feet were smooth and pale and to cover the rest of his body he wore a small white shirt and a cloth as his trousers. Terren immediately began to cherish Earyis and, though without words, he told Earyis with a caress that he was happy to accept him into their family. Eventually, Terren and his mother began talking about recent happenings and family stories, most stories of which Terren had heard, but he still loved to listen to them. Their conversation finally turned to castle life and the town and eventually the investigation. “Maybe you should live in the castle as the other lord’s do,” said Kaira after Terren described the beast’s assassination attempt on him.
“Perhaps you’re right,” said Terren, and then he returned, “But if I went to live in the castle I know you wouldn’t want to come. That is why I live in the town, so I can be close to you, and to the people.”
“I did not mean any offense,” replied Terren’s mother, “I only meant to say that you would be safer in a castle. But yes, I do not like living in castles. Castles remind me of war, and how they are crowded with servants and guards! It is nice though, living close to you. We are able to see each other more than if you lived in the castle.”
After a lull they walked into the kitchen where Terren’s mother had prepared tea.
“He’s precious,” nodded Terren towards Earyis in the other room, “are you not elated?” Terren asked this question because he felt awkwardness from his mother, and it was not like her to be so quiet, speaking of politics and things regarding about the country, on such a joyous occasion.
“Why of course I am!” replied Terren’s mother. Terren frowned as his mother grimaced. “He just reminds me so much of Gladamear,” she suddenly whispered.
Terren looked away. Gladamear was Terren’s brother who had strangely disappeared many years ago right at the start of the Invasion of the Beasts. After the battle and Gladamear’s disappearance, rumors and whispers grew around the country that the attackers of the nameless nation had tried to assassinate Terren, who was the firstborn son of a high ranked lord, but Gladamear had been mistaken for him. Fadehawk had sent out a large number of search parties for Gladamear, but he was never found, and after many months the lords of Fadehawk and the king suspected the worst: Gladamear must have been killed and his body disposed of.
Terren’s mother abruptly changed the subject, and Terren could not have been happier. Inside of him, he felt two opposite emotions fighting for his attention: his happiness at Earyis’s birth and his sadness over the disappearance of Gladamear. The lord of Thry was reluctant to abandon talk and remembrance of Gladamear, but at the present time, he thought it wise to choose cheer over sorrow. Many times had he seen men die in battle, but the scar of his only brother and closest friend parting from him at such a young age never healed. Often sights around the regions of Thry where he and Gladamear had played together would bring back to him a pain that weighed upon his heart.
Evening now came upon them and Kaira offered for Terren to stay for a late supper and he accepted.
“You’ve always been quite the cook,” remarked Terren to his mother, “I find it funny that you also found so much interest in cooking. Most ladies of his Majesty’s court do not sully themselves with such peasant-like things, but I am glad that you did.”
“A good way to woo a man’s heart,” laughed Kaira, “is with food.” She sighed, “However, most of the credit should go to my cook, Sileece.”
After time passed, Terren and his mother finished supper and Terren bid his mother and Earyis farewell.
Terren realized that the hour of eight must have passed; it was too dark to be any earlier. His vision was clouded by dusk. He knew that he should return home before the full darkness of night struck so he turned Stormflash towards the forest where he knew of a small shortcut through the woods and rode in.
As Terren trotted through the woods his eyes were straining to see ahead of him. He felt tired suddenly and calm because even during the night Thry was able to sustain its comforting look. After all the strange happenings throughout Thry, Earyis’s birth was like the warmth of the rising sun after a bitterly cold night.
The branches of trees blocked out the remaining light of day and acted like the roof of a tunnel. There was a silent and gentle blur of movement ahead of him, and he distingushed a figure of human stature, slinking along by the side of the shortcut. Terren poked Stormflash with his stirrups and the horse started forward at a faster pace. The figure ahead of him appeared to freeze, perhaps out of incomprehension, or perhaps the sound of the oncoming horse had startled him. As Terren grew closer he saw that the figure was indeed a man and that he wore a dark coat of armor. His helmet bore peculiar shaped ear points on top and he wore a black cloak. A bow was strung and hung on his back next to a quiver of arrows. Initially because of the armor, Terren would have guessed that this was a fellow knight of Fadehawk, yet, the armor was awfully strange indeed, and so he remained cautious.
Terren raised his hand in greeting as the man remained still, yet then the dark figure straightened his back from his rather sneaky looking position. “Hello,” spoke Terren, his voice was rather low, yet firm, “Might I ask what you are doing during this—”
Suddenly the man darted off into the woods, dodging with ease through and around the plants that grew here and there. Terren didn’t react for a second even as Stormflash stirred at the noise of the man running through the forest. Terren only needed seconds though. Why would the man run from him? Why was he sneaking around? Who was he? For Terren had never encountered from books and history of nations an account of that kind of armor. Could he be an enemy? “Could he be a beast,” Terren growled under his breath. However, this man, suspicious as he was, didn’t seem to have anything else odd about him except his armor. He stood up like a man, just as the beasts did that attacked Fadehawk, but his body wasn’t as awkwardly shaped as beast Terren had killed or those described by the Fadehawks who had survived the Invasion of the Beasts. Whoever or whatever Terren just saw, he felt confident that it wasn’t a beast.
Terren had his sword; he never left his home without it. With it he felt more secure as he decided to follow the strange man. Terren in a less careful gesture than before, prompted Stormflash to gallop steadily as he poked the horse with the stirrups. He caught sight of the man again, who was a hundred yards away from him and standing still. He made a circular motion with his arm and then Terren suddenly realized that he was about to use his bow. The arrow came suddenly, and the pain was terrible when Terren was pierced by an arrow in the thigh. He fell off Stormflash who reared and snorted before he trotted back to his master. The darkened sky and the large and twisting boughs hung over him, as if they were reaching down to grab him. And as quickly as he could, Terren sat up, irritating his leg that received the arrow, wary of another attack. He had received arrow wounds before and the pain was nearly unbearable. To his surprise, the man was only a few feet away from him, his bow back on his back.
“Come any closer and you’ll regret ever crossing me in such a cowardly way,” scoffed Terren, struggeling to stand up.
“Is that so?” said the man, and his voice was indeed a man’s voice, not hoarse, twisted, or strange.
“Who are you?” bellowed Terren, “If you’re looking for a fight then I say you should drop your bow.”
“Is that so?” the man said again. “Yet, skirmishing with the guardian of this elven forest will do you no good.”
“Elven forest?” exclaimed Terren, “I know this forest well and it is not inhabited by any people, and I shall definitely not want it to be.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, my lord,” said the man, circling Terren.
The man knelt down by Terren; too fast for Terren to react. The man drew a sword from the scabbard on his belt. Terren swallowed as the man put it to Terren’s throat and said in a low yet grave voice, “I will let you leave alive. But if you were to summon a band of knights to find me you would pay. As an example, your mother bore an infant days before did she not?”
“She did not,” Terren lied. He yelped then for he had pulled the arrow out from his leg.
“You bluff, my lord,” the man said. He paused before he spoke again, “Begone, yet you will keep quiet about this, or you will pay.”
Terren rode home with his wound. When he got home he bathed the wound, and thought hard about what he should do. “There is an armed man in my forest, in my village, along with a beast on the loose. I have to protect my people; but what about mother and Earyis?” Soon after, fatigue struck and Terren fell asleep.
The next day, Terren woke in excitement, knowing that today he would be leaving to learn of the nation that had attacked his country, and killed his father, so long ago. He had almost forgotten what had happened last night; he almost forgot the joy of Earyis’s birth and the discomfort and pain from the attack by the forest-dwelling man. In a way, he felt like a young excited boy on his birthday, waiting for the glee of receiving presents. He planned to discard the idea of tracking the man, or elf, if he was one, in the forest, for he worried for his mother and Earyis, remembering the man’s words. “What should I do?” he asked himself as he rode Stormflash through Thry towards Astermore where the meeting was to be held, two guards accompanying him. He looked at all the peasants and townspeople that looked up and smiled at their kind lord, faithful to him and trusting that he would keep them safe. “There’s a dangerous man nearby, possibly a threat to my people, but if I go after him he will hurt mother and Earyis. Perhaps this is something that should be spoken about privately to the other lords.” He continued along thinking more, “Advice? Should I ask the other lords for advice? Will that seem too childish?”
As Terren exited the town of Thry into the open space of the country, he remembered how the man in the forest had said the forest was “elven”. What could he mean? Were there more of his kind there—people, living in the woods unnoticed somehow, threatening and attacking those that came to close to their dwellings? Condsidering there were more “elves” living in the forest, Terren’s trepidation grew towards the matter. The question was, should he obey the man/elf and not attempt to bring him into custody for the possible threat he posed, or should he spirit away his mother and Earyis, then surrounding the forest to capture the man/elf, and the others with him, if there were any? Terren couldn’t come to a conclusion. He decided that, so long as he didn’t provoke the man/elf, he would stay true to his word, or so Terren hoped. In any case, his mother and Earyis were not entirely defenseless to the man/elf, for they did have guards, fifteen of them, and as far as Terren knew they were very attentive to protecting their lady.
Thry Castle was on the way to Astermore, so Terren stopped at the castle and met with the leader of the sixty soldiers assigned to find the man that had vanished and the beast that had murdered the family. To his disappointment, the soldiers had made no progress. Thereafter, Terren resumed his journey to the capital.
The capital, Astermore, was a good five days away from Thry at a hastened canter. A long road went from Thry to the capital and many other roads intersected through it to other cities or villages. The land that wasn’t inhabited was filled with farmland and forests which encompassed most of the land of Fadehawk. There were few travelers on the road and most of the ongoers greeted Terren and his guards with a friendly hello. They obviously didn’t know that he was a lord, but since he wore noblemen clothes, and had an armed escort, they referred to him as “Sir”. In the evenings, Terren and his company resided at villages he encountered along the way, being heartily welcomed at every inn he entered on account of his rank and wealth.
Finally, Terren reached Astermore and entered through the large gates that were the only entrance to the city. Many people, perhaps two hundred thousand strong, lived inside the walls of Astermore and the surrounding countryside. As Terren trotted through the crowded streets he saw that he was not the only noble about. Never before in Thry did nobles and the wealthy ride to and fro for they preferred the cities and castles to the beauty of the wide plains and vast forests.
Large buildings, most of them square so that people could stand on their flat tops, towered high on the side of the streets. Astermore was a wealthy city, as most of Fadehawk’s cities were, but Astermore surpassed them. The houses all had many windows and at least one chimney and were built either into the wall of Astermore or on the side of the wide streets that zig-zagged through the city. The only houses that people couldn’t stand on were the ones that were built into the wall, for they slanted down towards the street. Throughout the streets carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, and many other works of trade were being carried out under large oaken overhangs that were built into the stone houses and workshops.
Towards the large castle in the center of Astermore Terren rode. Like most castles, Astermore Castle was in a square shape with four turrets on each side of the walls. A large keep was built in the middle of the castle and it towered higher than any building. Guards were on the walls and some of the rooftops patrolling and seeing that peace was kept in the city.
The meeting Terren had come to partake in was held in a council room in the keep. The room had a long table stretching almost the length of the room. Thirty-two small windows shone light into the room and went in a circle around the room on the upper half of the keep’s walls. There were precisely twenty-four chairs in the room, each assigned to a noble that would be attending the meeting. A large chandelier hung from the high ceiling and from it burned a fire that supplied light for the room.
Once all of the nobles had arrived, Arkriso, the king himself, an old white haired man with a fluffy beard and soft golden eyes and thin lips that barely moved as the king talked, began, “We are here to announce the name of the country that invaded us a decade ago. Many of our own were killed in that battle, and from the country of Rarock we have been told of the nation’s name and their leader.” He paused looking upon his subjects, “The land is Gillik, led by an evil ruler named, Kartrus.”
As soon as the name Kartrus left the king’s mouth a paroxysm of rage and confusion let out from the lords.
“My lords, calm yourselves!” shouted Arkiso over the outburst. As the noblemen quieted, the king began, “what the Gillik’s felled upon us is not forgotten. We all know what we did after the battle. We all know that we questioned and even interrogate several of the beasts, but they gave us no name or piece of land.” He sighed, “The reason for such a long and terrible wait is that we searched by land.”
“Is the nation we seek on an unknown island, Your Majesty?” asked Lord Sabe, a tawny colored man with dark hair and dark eyes, and a sly round face.
“Yes,” replied the king, “however, if you travel west, as our scouts did, you will find yourself nearly back at Fadehawk. But before you would reach our country you would find the country that is Gillik. Though, in answer to your question, Gillik is across the world from us, and we had no knowledge of that, for we perchanced they were among the lands of Ice Scale.”
“If we were to counterstrike this Gillik country, Your Majesty,” said Lord Kyocure, “could we succeed? And what is the precise distance by seagoing?”
“Near a thousand miles,” answered Arkriso, “but the sea in the rear of the country is inaccessible, for it is strangley swamp-like, or so the Rarocks have told us.”
The meeting continued and Terren learned only the knowledge given to the king through the Rarocks. The Gilliks were tyrants and evil and they were striking many eastern nations with large armies. In addition to the tyranny of Kartrus, Terren was told that he captured natives from any country he struck. All that Arkriso explained disheartened him and brought about a disturbance and a repetitive mutter of disgust from the lords and nobles. And at last, Terren was finally able to understand the recent strange and dark happenings. He had nearly been assassined by a strange beast, containing an evil and horrifying look, rather matching the Gillik’s description. Then a man had disappeared and his family murdered. Whatever had attacked the family had had black blood; just like the beast that had tried to kill Terren, matching the poet and knight Sir Quenivin’s description of the Gilliks. Gilliks had infiltrated Thry and there was no mistake. Terren’s current mood of excitement and anticipation snapped and he became angry. He would give justice to these Gilliks and stop them from their crimes, now that he knew where they were and of their malevolence.
Sometime within the hour of three the meeting ended but Terren delayed his return home to visit Efelnid. It was a brief visit, for all of the physcians were hasty for him to leave lest Terren too become sick.
Five days later, eager to return home, Terren was swiftly trotted through Thry—his escort having already returned to Thry Castle—when a messenger intercepted him at an intersection several minutes before Terren’s home. “Lord Terren!” called the messenger. The boy stood by Stormflash and peered upwards at the knight. “My lord, it is your mother!”
Terren dismounted quickly; the ground crunched beneath his feet as he landed. “Speak quickly, boy!” urged Terren.
“The baby was stolen,” stammered the messenger, “the remaining guard said that the house was attacked by six beasts, but they were strangely…manlike.”
“Come with me!” growled Terren, beginning to grow hot and sweat.
The boy seemed greatly surprised as Terren grasped him beneath his arms and put him on Stormflash’s saddle. Terren sat in front of the messenger, and wrapped his hands around the reins. With his feet in place he veered towards his mother’s house and dug the spurs into the brown stallion and the horse galloped forward. “Tell me more!” shouted Terren over the pounding of hooves.
The boy’s voice shook as he unsteadily went up and down on the horse’s galloping back, “I had been on my way to deliver a letter to Lady Kaira when it happened. Four black creatures all standing like men with pale white faces rushed through the front door. A rider clad with full armor rode towards the house, his right hand a hand of snakes. Another creature altered its form into various creatures. Seven guards present among her Ladyship’s home were killed, one remained alive, but the monsters left as soon as they had the child.”
Terren remained frozen for several seconds, trying to comprehend all that had been said: six horrible creatures, one who could change his shape, others that were hideous, and another fully ready for battle. None were slain and they stole Earyis. “Earyis,” thought Terren, overwhelmed. His head swelled with anxiety.
Terren rode down the grassy highland that overshadowed his mother’s home. His heart was beating fast and as soon as he was by the oak in his mother’s yard he jumped from Stormflash. He grunted as the impact of the jump aggravated the wound in his leg. Into his mother’s house he strode; his mother was in pain while lying upon a divan in a side room just to the left of the door. “Mother, are you all right?!” asked Terren, terrified as he looked at his mother’s hands; they were coverd in cuts and were bleeding.
She turned to him and seemed confused.
“Mother,” Terren began, “I’m here; just tell me what happened.”
His mother stared at him, and after hestitation she whispered, “It was them…they who attacked us long ago. I remember their faces and what I saw here matched.”
Fury and rage blinded him. Kaira went on, “You will need help to retrieve Earyis. Do not worry for me. Just save Earyis!” Then tears filled her eyes and she softly cried, repeating three times almost hysterically, “Save my child from those monsters!”
Terren nodded unsurely, and with his sword cut from the drapes that hung from the window in the side room strips of fabric to bandage his mother’s hands. Then Terren hurried outside to where the messenger boy stood motionless, perhaps just as scared and confused as Terren. “You,” said Terren, “you need to ride to Thry’s castle and get help.”
“Yes, sir,” stuttered the boy, nodding.
Terren hefted the boy onto Stormflash, “Find phsyicans, doctors, or midwives to aid my mother. Then, you must tell a squad of knights to search for Earyis in the whereabouts of the country and that I will be there to help.” The boy’s face was uncertain, as if he was afraid he couldn’t do all that Terren told him to do, and so Terren added, “Tell them this in my name.” And then Terren brought his hand down on the horse’s backside and Stormflash galloped away.
Terren ran into his mother’s home. He didn’t know what he was doing. Incomprehension was taking over. He needed more information and time; however, there was none of each. First he stopped and looked at his mother; her eyes were closed, and she stirred slightly. Then he hastily jumped into the kitchen and found the guard whom the boy said remained alive. The guard appeared to be barely conscious, and his comrades were lying dead around him. Terren shook the man, but gently, trying to control himself. His world was crumbling; Thry might remain a perfect-looking beautiful place, but what truly made Thry beautiful to Terren was being destroyed; the safety of the people; his mother and Earyis. Thry wasn’t a safe haven any longer. All luck and good tidings that used to come as often as western winds were broken and scattered. “Sir,” yelled the lord finally.
The man stirred, and arched his back, slowly opening his eyes as much as he apparently could. The guard took some time to realize who was kneeling next to him, but then he spoke, and Terren was thankful he didn’t waste time on preliminaries, “I know where they went.”
“Where?” exclaimed Terren.
“They went into the forest,” explained the guard, “with the baby.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Terren, and he turned to leave, but then stopped and asked, “Will you be all right?”
Yet the man was still and breathed his last, and his hand fell from his stomach, revealing a knife in his flesh.
Before running outside Terren stopped to check on his mother, who was breathing slowly. Now his mother was without protection, and she was wounded. Every second, however, Terren knew that the Gilliks could be doing something horrible to Earyis. His mother’s wish was that he pursue Earyis, but he didn’t want to leave her. There was no time for consideration. Earyis had just been captured, which meant Terren had time to trace the Gilliks and take back his brother before it was too late. He wasn’t going to let the Gilliks take another of his family.
He went to the forest and grimaced also worrying, “Should I leave the guards securing the area without them knowing where I am?” And then he remembered how the man in the forest had shot his leg, another thing to take into reflection. But now he didn’t care about what the man would do to him if the man found him again, “There isn’t a moment to spare.” And he darted into the forest.
Terren’s feet drummed beneath him as he passed through the shortcut that he often rode Stormflash through. Then: “You are facing dire circumstances, are you not?” said a voice behind Terren.
“Yes, I am,” said Terren, still running forward, “but I don’t have time to talk or become wounded. Leave me.”
“What has happened?” called the voice after Terren, and his voice resembled the man who had shot him in the leg. “I can help.”
“My mother just gave birth to my brother,” replied Terren, and he stopped and turned as a question arose to him, and indeed it was the same person who had shot him the night before, garbed in his dark armor. The lord scowled and asked, “But how do I know you didn’t arrange this? I remember your warning.”
“As far as I knew, you had not sent anyone after me. I am true to my word. But are you doing?”
Terren opened his mouth to tell the man, but then he returned angrily, “Why…why should I tell you?”
“Because I believe I can be of assistance. I saw what happened at your mother’s home, Lord Terren, but they were of the most powerful of Kartrus’s servants; I could offer no help alone. Those were Gilliks that stole your brother.” Lifting his helmet from his head, Terren saw that the man had cherry red hair and pointed ears unlike a man. “I am an elf. I know more about the Gilliks than anyone in Fadehawk and I will be able to help you more than what several knights could.”
Terren stood in disbelief as the elf spoke. “But why would you want to help me?” he asked.
“If your brother receives the fate that one one would receive in the hands of the Gilliks then he will suffer. He will suffer and we will suffer. With my help, I believe we can prevent this.”
“Lead me to where you wish to take me!” demanded Terren as he silently dreaded over the elf’s words. “What are they going to do to Earyis?” he then thought. As the elf turned to go deeper into the forest Terren asked, “Your name?”
“Curser, son of Farharid,” he replied.
Curser led Terren deeper into the forest. The forest was dark with tall oaks as well as evergreens and ashs; there weren’t many bushes or briars about this part of the forest. As they came to a grove of elms a stream evolved to a river which led to a pond that Terren knew well. The aroma of the fresh forest air refreshed Terren a little. “Where are you taking me?” asked Terren, stepping over spiked weeds that grew on the side of a thick oak.
“To my home,” answered the elf.
“Where would that be?” said Terren, and he quickened his pace to a jog so to catch up to Curser, “and we cannot waste time.”
“You must not tell anyone,” warned Curser, “and you should be thankful to us if we can supply good help.”
Terren observed the forest once more, in greater detail than ever before. As they strode from one bank of the lagoon to the otherside, Terren looked at two thick and tall tulip poplars. They were covered in ivy and vines, each spread of the winding plants held leaves and a coating of smooth bark. On the furthest side of the lagoon the forest grew dark, for a thick wall of opaque oaks and maples cast shadows on the ground. Raspberry bushes grew here and there and briars accompanied them around the base of shorter trees and shrubs.
Curser hastened his pace towards a giant, high-branched evergreen, and clasped one of the numerous vines dangling from its side. He motioned for Terren to follow, and the Fadehawk duplicated the elf’s action. As soon as he felt the vine he peered at it, for its strange structure appeared to resemble a substance he had felt before. It wasn’t a vine; it was rope, cleverly camoflauged with green paint and in the midst of many leaves. Curser began climbing, using his arm strength. Terren did as well, but it was not as easy as Curser made it look. However, Terren succeeded just as Curser, and once again he peered harder into the tree he climbed into.
The boughs of the trees broke off from four separate trunks going separate ways and then the trunks branched off into another two boughs. Terren thought hard, “If the vines were camoflauge, then…” He looked as the limbs covered the trunk, preventing anyone from seeing. When Curser and Terren came to where the four trunks branched outwards Terren spied a house of sticks and logs right in the heart of the four trunks. The thick net of needles protruding from the branches of the evergreen hid it from all views, save an aerial one. A curtain of vines was the door, and once they were steadily on their feet under several boards among the trunks Curser said, “This is my home, but we are going to see another.”
Across from his tree-house Curser pointed towards another evergreen; it was immensely wide and perhaps its trunk was much taller than Curser’s. “How shall we reach it?” asked Terren.
“How do you think?”
Curser reached upwards and clutched a vine from a thicket of leaves. Terren did the same, “Will they hold our weight?” asked Terren.
“It’s rope,” replied the elf, “and we use it very much; I’m sure it can hold your weight.” And he swung slowly towards the tall evergreen.
Terren stood in amazement, and then watched as Curser vanished through another curtain of vines that grew on the trunk of the tree. Terren followed, tightening his grip on the rope as he swung through the air. It was an exhilarating feeling and yet also frightening. At once Terren pondered how Curser kept composure with such ease, and how often he would have to swing from tree to tree. When Terren finally came towards the curtain of green vines he released his grip and fell into the tree, which appeared to be hollowed. He fell on his bottom, but quickly regained his composure for another elf sat in a chair in front of him looking at Terren with the utmost suspicion.