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The Rise of the Trickster
(A continuation of A Journey of a Thief)
The rider leaped into the air with horse below him, flying almost like a bird into the great blue expanse. But the horse and his own weight betrayed him and man and beast came down with great force. The horse ran through bush and bramble, trampling weeds and many colored wild flowers. Dirt rose from the horse’s hooves in torrents, falling back down from whence it came. In quick pursuit were sounds, sounds that did not belonging in the Forest of Agrinor…
St. Yora Cathedral sits in a secluded grove several miles off the highway, Mainstay Way which winds across the valley floor before entering the sovereign boundaries of The City. Its stain glass windows hide behind numerous overhanging branches that prevent sunlight from revealing the cold, hard granite walls. Gardens surround the compounded, which are tended by the most devout of Hammers as they seek throughout their days a life of piety. Paths circulate throughout the many gardens and wind around fountains that trickle happily day and night, content with their simple task. These tributaries of dirt and smooth stone eventually meet with the main path that splits the gardens in two. It winds its way to the grand oak doors that act as a stalwart testimony of the Hammerite Order and its doctrine of faith. Whenever a humble layman meekly pushes open the great doors a draft of wind slips through and foils his clothes. It flies into the Great Hall and stirs the dusty tapestries that cling to the seats high above. Flying buttresses sweep along the sides of the Great Hall, parallel to each other as they support the roof that edges down toward the earth below.
The songbirds sang brightly and their tunes flowed throughout the misting morning like a shaft of light through a pitch-black room. A dog pestered a tree with its constant sniffing and insatiable curiosity before catching the whiff of a strange scent. Lifting its head, the dog looked about, nostrils flaring as it searched for the source. Several yards away it spotted a figure that did not mold with the character of the garden. It sat alone, upon a bench. With a quizzical turn of the head, the dog trotted along the path to investigate the situation. Upon closer inspection, he found that the figure is food-giver, and an old one at that; his hair is white, as his beard that cascaded down the front of his cope. The dog moved closer, hoping for a treat or perhaps a scratch behind the ears. Suddenly, the old man started and his eyes opened, landing upon the entreating dog, but something is wrong. His pupils are constricted and sweat is sprouting along his brow. His head is shaking and his body seems to be like a leather cord, stretched to the point of breaking.
The dogs yelped and hastily backed away before scuttling over in the direction of the nearest refuse dump, some food-givers were just plain odd.
“To me, my brothers,” yelled Brother Matthews who frantically waved at the paralyzed regiments of red-clad men. The horde ad now broken through the northern walls and hand already taken the work yard which was just beyond the corner that now lay before them. Screams and cries pierced the tepid night air but were quickly muffled, as if a pillow had been shoved upon the faces of stragglers and wounded.
Men were being slaughtered right and left, the ranks of the Hammer were decimated, and yet the enemy kept coming. Even the Hammers that had been freshly skewered through or mutilated, as if by some unholy and demonic power, took to their feet or simply crawled in the direction of their living comrades, eager for the taste of blood. The eyes, as their horrified brother looked upon them, were empty, dark, and cold. What madness was this? Why do their fallen turn against them?
“Brothers, we must not fear,” screamed the now frantic Brother Matthews, “take heart, for the Builder shall not leave our side!” The regiments looked duly as the first few being of such dark nature crawled over and through schisms in the inner wall. Fear had encompassed their very being, a man has no conscious thought left when it comes to that point.
“Nay, we must retreat to the Keep,” retorted a burly Hammer whose left leg was bleeding profusely and looked as if it had been mauled by some toothsome beast. “’Tis futile to fight on open ground! Come, we can escape to the sewer below and perhaps live! Why die in the face of the unstoppable. Follow brothers!” With this the man did his best to fling his hammer across his shoulder and began to hobble back towards the Keep. He had barely made it past the iron gates, which stood wide open, before a figure, dark as the night upon which it cast its shadow, leaped from the top of the wall, landing on the red-clad man. Not one of his comrades moved or made a sound as the man was torn piece by piece, in front of their very eyes; crimson liquid shot up into the air and seemed to grow like a mutated weed across the ground. The man, all the while screamed until his lungs could scream no more, or until they had been ripped to shreds by fangs and talons.
Brother Matthews looked in horror, unaware that as his mouth grew wider and wider and from its depths… …screams of terror, screams of madness that went on and on. Even when cold steel slid through his back and out through is stomach; he still did not stop…
The old man’s heart was still beating at a incredible speed but his head was now clear—he could think. Memories, how he hated dreams. Their feel, their texture; sometimes, they were to real, almost as if they were an omen of something to come…a warning perhaps. He started to relax and flexed his old, knarled hands. Once hands of a laborer, they were now beaten and broken, ravaged and racked by pain during mornings and freezing nights. The old man turned and looked about the gardens. Tulips, roses, and flora of every kind imaginable lined the walkways and provided a shaded place to mediate on even the most trifle of manner. No one was out and about at the moment as the area was deserted. Ah, he had the gardens and the sweet aroma to himself for a few more minutes. It was early, and as usual, only the cook and her legions of helpers would be up preparing breakfast for many hungry stomachs. It was times like these that he enjoyed the most. The peace and the quiet, the stillness especially. When life seemed so fresh and exciting and age itself seemed ease its heavy burden, if but a little while. Yes, but there was work to do and the Builder was not one to approve of sloth.
With a sigh and a grunt from the effort, the old man heaved himself up from the bench and walked toward his quarters, which, thankfully, were not far off. Along the way he paused to breathe deeply or stare at the rising sun in all it’s glory. When up ahead he saw Brother Connory, a man whose age matched his own, he hailed him over with a wave.
“A good morning to you Cavador,” said Connory as he joined alongside the old man. “I say, your up quite early.”
“And to you brother. And yes, I find the want of sleep tends to elude me the past few months. ‘Tis the pain in my hands and…” he paused before continuing, “and dreams of mine that scare me sorely. There not natural ‘t all. They seem too real, and in a way, they are.”
Connory’s smiling face was now a pensive frown. “I advise you visit Kines; he is well versed in matters that torture the soul and mind.”
“I’ll take that into account, my friend.”
The mood changed dramatically as Connory suggested they head to the dining hall for breakfast. But Cavador shook his head and said he had business to attend to, but thank for the offer of your company. With a farewell, the two parted and went their separate ways.
“They say there is no beginning, and ergo, there is no end. But in the story that I tell you now, there is a definite beginning and an even more definite ending.”
-Memoirs of Keeper Annals
I stood among the dark tees of Agrinor and before me lay a deer path overgrown with weeds. It was headed in the direction in which I was to meet our informant, a man by the name of Larkspur who claimed to be servant to the high priest himself. Classically, informants tended to exaggerate, but then again, it’s not quite wise to makes such claims when it could earn you a knife in the back. But…the man was the only one I could trust, minimally at least. Looking at the sun that was still peeking over the mountains in the east, I shrugged and started tramping down the path clustered with brambles.
I traveled for about a hour before I heard the sound of metal upon wood, forester’s no doubt. I dropped to my knees and crawled into a small alcove formed by a cluster of bushes. Carefully I pulled apart the thorny branches and peeked through my newly formed frame. Surveying the clearing, I spied a funny character with a large bulbous nose and floppy ears that was heaving his axe against the trunk of a pine tree. Nettles shook from pine with every shuddering blow. His partner was attempting to cut down a tree about twenty paces away to my left. They were both dressed as peasants, oversized clothing and stained caps that barely hid the balding crowns upon which they rested. Beyond the clearing a road led further down to a complex of buildings that had been distorted by the morning overcast.
Realizing they offered no threat I holstered my bag once again and stole away eastward, circumventing the unwholesome pair. And as I was just reaching the beginning of the road, I heard a thick, wet smack followed by a short but distinct gurgle. I immediately dropped to the ground and wriggled to the nearest undergrowth, and looked behind myself. What I saw was a sight surely not meant for a boy of my age. The two men I had just seen up and about a few moments ago now lay upon the ground, decapitated, with freshly made stumps where there heads once where.
Suddenly, the bushes in front of me rattled and out leaped a creature that my eyes refused to follow; it slid off my vision like oil in water. Without hesitation, I slid my hand beneath my wool robe and unsheathed my dagger. One of ornamental design that was given to me by my father; it was more akin to a short sword for its length was comparably to that of my arm. Ducking, I hurled my bag at the creature, hoping that this slight diversion would provide me with more time. It struck the creature to the ground but the hellish thing bounded up like a copper spring and charged me with a guttural growl. Placing one foot in front of the other, I placed my blade by my side and then…I danced.
My mentor had taught me many things besides the secret arts of the Keepers, and, before his death had imparted unto me proficiency in both blade and fist. Keeper Landaran was originally a blade master prior to his entrance into the Brotherhood of the Light, or, to others, the Keepers. His abilities were not of much use as our goal is simply to observe rather than to participate in the eternal battle of good and its companion, evil. But then, of course, there are those times in which one of our brothers will be accosted and left with no chance of peaceful resolution; this is when the silver sheen of blade is revealed.
A short prayer of thanks left my lips and I meet the second charge of my unrecognizable foe. There was silence in the forest as our blades clashed, the world became a sphere six feet and depth and the pull of gravity could not be denied. Twisting to the left, I attempted to slice the creature across the legs but with lightening speed a blade shorter than my own lashed out and parried my own. With an oath I jumped back and prepared for a third attack, but it gave no quarter. With ferocity, it flung itself upon me with its blades that seemed to be every where at once. All my effort was directed against deflect the blows that flew against me. My strength began to ebb and the beast had placed its blade twice upon my bare forearm, slicing almost clean through to the bone. Realizing I could not fight against such force, I retreated towards the clearing and road beyond, hoping to escape. Finally, I through my blade at the creature in such a way that it pierced its armed against a tree and fled, for I am a man that values his life! With haste, I flew across the ground, heading towards the building I had spotted early. Behind me the creature howled and I could hear it struggling to free itself from the blade.
To be continued…
If you made it this far…perhaps, you’ll wait for more. Once again, I’m only beginning to write, and with high school taking up much of my time, the fruit of my labor takes a while. What I really need is remarks/comments people, where I could improve (and there are many areas) and such related items…thank you for reading my attempt at putting into words the world that is Thief.
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