I would like to thank those who have written me so far. It's my first time to write a story online so please don't blame me for my thirst for your approval... Hehe. I haven't heard anything bad so far, but if you see anything bad please tell me. It wouldn't hurt my feelings and it would help me greatly in writing.
And thanks too, to those who are following this story. I'm glad that my work is worth your time. Tell me what you think about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org
So...where were we?
Arevan and Eilon were master and slave, best of friends, and lovers. Unfortunately, someone saw them in one of their demonstrations of love. Someone in the person of Gendor, the headservant. He threatened Eilon to tell Javan, their master and Arevan's father, about what he saw if Eilon wouldn't leave the caravan. Having no choice, he left for the good of his lover. On his way... um somewhere, he was bitten by a venomous snake and he fell unconscious. The question now is, is he dead or alive? Arevan looked for him but instead found his earring, the symbol of his slavery. Arevan then asked Shaya, Eilon's older sister, to bring him a new slave boy (not toy boy!), and she brought Kal who had befriended Brion, a boy with dreams of joining the army. Speaking of the army, the kingdoms around Eadzon are becoming agitated because of King Aestrad's order to recruit more soldiers and produce more weapon. Javan found out about this through travelling with the caravan. He had been commissioned to spy on the kingdoms around them and since he was a well known merchant, who would doubt him?
There. I hope that reminded you the last three chapters. Thanks to Drew for suggesting this section. By the way, this chapter occurs a day after the meeting between the ministers and Javan.
Disclaimer: This story is fictional. Anything, or anyone, remotely similar is purely incidental
The bed was soft and was almost like a pile of down feathers that it threatened to swallow any body that would lie on it. The pillows were hypnotic, commanding deep sleep to any head that would touch them. A blanket provided warmth that felt like an embrace that only a mother could give. It was heaven, a paradise for a weary soul. The prevailing atmosphere was one of serenity but the air was filled with the stimulating scent of wild flowers with a purpose to wake even the dead from slumber. Contrasting. And it was how Eilon came back from the world of unconsciousness. He was utterly clueless.
He opened his eyes and they focused on the stalactites up above which glowed from the light of a fire that was somewhere near. He closed his eyes again, but when he opened them, there were still stalactites hanging up above him. He immediately sat up, alarmed. A bed fit for kings held him, but the fact that the bed was in the middle of a cave disturbed him. He rolled to the side of the bed, sat up, and was putting one of his feet down when he heard a voice.
"You're awake," it said matter-of-factly. The voice was deep and it echoed throughout the cave. Eilon got out of the bed and turned around to face a middle-aged man with a hair that was colored so light it was almost white, and piercing black eyes. Layers of wool and cotton covered the man topped with leather and a leopard skin with its fur of spots was wrapped around his shoulder. A sheath that the man held with his hand contained what looked to Eilon like an expensive sword. And at exactly that moment, he realized he was naked, standing before a fully clothed man. He quickly grabbed one of the pillows from the bed to cover himself, his face turning red with embarrassment. The man chuckled and sat on the ground before Eilon. He felt a swirl of wind brush against his skin and when he looked down at what was happening, he was fully clothed exactly like the man except that it was a bear skin instead of a leopard's he was wearing around his shoulders.
"Oh... my..." Eilon said dropping the pillow in shock. The pillow, upon hitting the ground, exploded with a soft pop into hundreds of downs that flew around the cave when a sudden rush of wind blew by. Eilon jumped back in surprise when all of a sudden, the feathers disappeared. But they were all too soon forgotten as Eilon looked down at himself. He ran his hands all over his body, his eyes widening as if he grew a new skin, which, in a sense, he did. He was admiring the expensive clothing he had on when he abruptly stopped and looked at the man before him. "You are... who, I mean... are you... a god?" he stammered, his face ashen with fear.
The man stared at him for a second then broke out into a loud laughter. He was holding his sides, his torso bent between his legs. His body shook uncontrollably and his laughter bounced from wall to wall inside the cave which seemed to laugh at Eilon too. "Me? God?" he guffawed. When he had gotten control of himself he stood up and put a hand on the shoulder of a visibly embarrassed Eilon. "I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Thank you for giving me the chance."
Eilon was perplexed. "You were the one who clothed me, weren't you? How can you do that if you weren't a god?" Then he stared at the man in shock again, his eyes bulging from their sockets. "Did you bring me back from the dead? I mean the snake killed me, didn't it?"
"No, I didn't bring you back from the dead, and no, the snake didn't kill you," the man said with laughter threatening to spill out of his mouth. "You were unconscious when I found you. I just healed you. Nobody would find a trace of venom in your blood," he explained.
Remembering what had brought on the events leading to his unconsciousness, Eilon sat down heavily on the bed, his face a mixture of sadness and uncertainty. "I wish you hadn't save me. After everything, it's just hard to find a reason for living."
"It was fate that saved you. You have a destiny to fulfil just like I do. And my destiny is to help you realize yours. You will meet him again one day."
Eilon looked curiously at him, at the same time shocked that this strange man knows something about his life. "Are you reading my mind?"
"No. I can't do that and I wouldn't want to even if I can. Let's just say that there's a prophecy about you," he said, looking Eilon in the eyes, "And your lover. What's your name by the way?" "I'm Eilon, and you?"
"You... you're... you're..." Eilon stuttered. His eyes were wide and he was pointing a finger at the man before him, but he couldn't seem to utter the words that were screaming in his mind.
"Yes," the man chuckled and sat beside Eilon. "Yes, I was the minister everyone thought to have been dead because I was killed by an idiot named Aestrad. The people wanted me dead anyway and that was the first thing on his list."
"You fought with the priests of both temples and told the people that there is no god. That's really something. How did you escape death anyway?"
"There IS no god," Jilm started, "I was able to fake my own death because of my power. I can do anything, everything with just a flicker of thought. But I am no god."
"But what about Eador? And Ayzon?"
The man motioned for Eilon to stand up from the bed. It disappeared from their sight and was replaced by a table overflowing with food. There were two chairs which looked like the bed that Eilon had just slept on, and sitting down on it, he concluded they were made of the same stuff. The fire from the torches inside the cave suddenly died out and a bright white orb appeared above the table, illuminating the cave with light as bright as the sunlight. Eilon sampled each of the food before him starting with the ones he hadn't seen before. Jilm sat down on the other chair opposite him and said, "They are like me."
Eilon stared at him, confused. His hand hung in midair, holding a turkey's leg. "What?"
"Eador and Ayzon. They are like me. They are like you. And they are like just everybody else--mere humans--although with more knowledge of who they are."
"Yes. They're human beings. They're not just like you, they're like everybody else."
Eilon shrugged. He started eating again, the heavenly taste of the food lingering in his mouth. No food had ever taste better than these did, even the ones Arevan had managed to sneak out for him. He sighed heavily and looked at the older man before him, "Do you... know why I'm here?"
"I said I don't read your mind. I just found you near the river and brought you here," the older man said as if explaining to a little child, sensing what the boy was asking about. "Do you know this place?"
"We are in a cave. In Mount Hosoan. This is where I have been living for the past five years. Sometimes, I go down and wander around Peron. Living here alone is miserable. But you're here now. Or would you rather return to your master? They must be looking for you right now."
"No. They wouldn't be. Someone saw us-me and my lover." He paused and took a deep breath, "He threatened me that he would tell my master if I don't leave the caravan." He looked at Jilm, "You said something about a prophecy."
"Yes, yes. But right now, eat first. We'll talk about it later. You've been asleep for two nights since the day I found you unconscious." Eilon was instantly overcome with a hunger so intense he felt he could eat everything at the table, even the table. He started shoving food inside his mouth when a thought occurred to him.
"Did you do that?"
"Did what?" Jilm asked innocently but his eyes betrayed him. He had, indeed, heightened Eilon's desire for food.
Oerem was a general in the army of Eadzon. He had defended the kingdom from the advances of the Maguian Empire during the reign of King Haneus, the father of Aestrad, with amazing vigor. His martial arts were legendary and it was said that the gods themselves had endowed Oerem his capabilities as a warrior. The late king awarded him the governorship of Iven but he declined it. He said he would rather stay by the king's side, and he did, until the death of the king. He decided to retire but told the new king he would always be available if he is needed.
The day before, he had received a letter from the merchant, Javan, a friend of his. The merchant apologized for not visiting him in person, but sending him a letter instead. His friend asked him for a favor. And that was what he was waiting for in his garden, right at the center of his mansion.
"General, there is a young man outside the gates looking for you."
"Bring him in." The servant bowed his head and went to fetch the visitors. He came back with two young men. One was dressed in expensive clothing with an animal skin-tiger, it seems- wrapped around his shoulders and the other was garbed in a commoner's clothing. The general reached out his hand for the rich young man to shake and said, "You must be Arevan."
"Yes, my lord. Forgive me for imposing myself upon my father's friendship with you."
Oerem chuckled and waved his hand dismissively. "Young man, you are not imposing. I owe your father a lot," the general said with a smile. "Now, your father said you want to learn swordsmanship from me."
"Yes, my lord."
"I assume you know the basics." Arevan nodded. "Come now, here at the center." Oerem walked towards the center of the garden and Arevan followed with Kal at his heels. The general motioned for Arevan to come nearer. He got into an aggressive pose and said, "Attack me."
Arevan froze, his mouth open and unable to produce sound for a moment. "My lord, I... You have no weapon."
"Don't worry. Attack me."
Arevan run forward with a shout, wielding his sword towards the general who bent backwards and kicked him on the shin at the same time. He was knocked down but he got up quickly and charged towards Oerem. The general sidestepped and jumped up when Arevan swept his feet to trip him, again, kicking Arevan in the process and sending him sprawling towards Kal.
Arevan chuckled, holding out his hand for Kal to help him up. "My lord, I think I could do well enough even if you will only teach me the ways of fighting with only my hands and feet." He stood up, bowed his head, then met Oerem's eyes, "I will do anything you ask me to do."
"Young man, you only tried twice."
"You see, the problem is you think too much," the general said, turning his back to Arevan. "Fighting is not a science where you study how your opponent moves, where to hit him, and what technique to use. Fighting is a way of life much like breathing. The common fighter uses what when they fight? Their eyes, hands, and feet," he looked at Arevan. "I will teach you how to fight using your soul. When your body is acquainted with the soul, then you will be the warrior like me and more."
"I don't understand. What do you mean by me thinking too much?"
"Do you think when you need to breathe, how you would breathe? When I asked you to attack me, you were thinking about where you should hit me to knock me down, much like an outnumbered army is thinking of how greatly their enemies exceed them. When you fight, never think of who your enemy is. Think of who you are, what you are. The flesh," Oerem said, pinching the skin of his arm, "Is nothing but an instrument to live on. The soul inside, it knows what to do. Let your body obey your soul. I can feel in me that you're a warrior at heart. My only goal now is to awaken your soul."
Arevan was confused. He had never heard anyone talk like that about fighting. He did understand the fact about it being a way of life like breathing but as he didn't grow up as a fighter, he couldn't see how that's going to be. He'd heard of tribes who learned to ride horses before they learned how to walk and he think that's how Oerem meant. But how? "Awaken my soul?"
"Yes, Arevan. What's your slave's name?"
"Huh? Oh... he's Kal," he replied, confused as to why the general took interest of his slave.
"If you want, you can send him home already. I'll just let one of my slaves accompany you back home. I'll be training you for the whole day and he wouldn't be of much help here."
"Oh... no, my lord. If it's alright with you, I'd like to keep him here."
And with that, the general took him into rigorous exercises, stretching parts of his body "to make them ready" as the general says. He also taught him how to improve his techniques with the sword. Exercises involving the spear were also included. Oerem took a break only to have lunch and finally stopped just before supper when Arevan was already reduced to sweat. "Supper with me?" he invited.
"It would be my pleasure, sir."
"You did good today. I assume you learned fighting in the caravan," he said, looking askance at Arevan.
"That's true, my lord."
The general nodded. "Good, good. Javan trains his fighters well."
"How old are you?" said the man in a painfully slow squeaky voice, like the sound heard when the palace's gates were being opened. His nose was enormous and it seemed to be the source of the sound that the man called his voice. Atop it was perched a pair of coin-sized wire-rimmed glasses which was there more to invoke intelligence than to be used for reading. And to say the least, he was intimidating. At least, that was what Brion thought.
There were a dozen of men his age and older that were lined up at the gates of the soldier's camp when he arrived, and the man interviewed, or rather, scrutinized each until finally, it was his turn. Three of the ones before him were sent back home and he was suddenly worried that he would not be accepted. He wondered if he had done this entire journey for nothing. He also learned that he had to find a place to live in because no one stayed at the camp except those guarding the palace. Problems. He sighed.
"I'm eighteen, sir," he answered, his voice trembling a bit because of nervousness.
"You're tall," the man observed, dragging out the words out of his nose like the sound of a creaking metal. "Do you read and write?"
"A little, sir."
The man narrowed his eyes at Brion. Instantly, sweat appeared on his forehead and he fidgeted invisibly as he stand before the man that was keeping him from entering the gates of the camp. All of a sudden, the man sat back abruptly on his chair and Brion almost jumped with shock. The man smiled and said while holding out a quill and a scroll of paper to him, "Write your name here."
Brion scribbled his name on the scroll and the man smiled, looking pleased. "Sir, do I really have to know how to read and write to join the army?"
The man chuckled, his chuckle sounding more like a nasal hum. "No. I was just testing you, trying to see if you were telling the truth. So, tell me your name."
This time, Brion smiled. "My name is Brion, sir," he replied, immediately understanding that the man was still testing him. He did wrote his name, but the man wanted to know if it was really his name he wrote and not something he had copied. Working at the market has done good to him. He had not only learned to read and write but he also learned some arithmetic.
"Give this to the man just inside the gate," the man said, handing to him a piece of wood with the emblem of Eadzon. "He will bring you to the troop you are assigned. By the way, where are you from?"
"I... I'm from Peron, sir."
The man paused and looked up at him for a second, and then took out another piece of wood with the emblem of Eadzon. "You can stay at the barracks. Just show this to the guard, don't give it to him or you'll have to find your own place to stay. Be sure to wake up before the sun. Do you have all your things with you?" Brion nodded. "Good. Go inside so you can join the training."
Brion went inside and did as he was told he was directed towards the left side of the camp where training was currently taking place. There were fifty or so men making up twenty five pairs, all in the same position and moving at the same time while the man who was obviously the leader stood on some sort of stage and shout out numbers that indicate which attacks to make. The men on the right do the attack and the men on the left defend against their partner's offense. It took Brion a while before he realized that everybody stopped and was looking at him.
"You," the leader called, clearly speaking to him, his voice getting all of Brion's attention, "Pair up with Rowan here. He will teach you the drills." Rowan approached him, and together, they made their way towards the side.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Brion. And you are Rowan."
"Yes." They shook hands. Rowan guided him through the first of the drills and by noon, Brion was getting good at it. He was also taught the way to block each of the attack effectively. Though tired, Brion couldn't help but smile widely. He had been able to join the army, he has a place to stay, and his dreams are happening. He couldn't wait to tell Kal. He turned his face just in time for Rowan's fist to come landing on his jaw. It connected, and Brion jumped back more out of surprise than pain because it didn't hurt at all.
"That's for not listening to me," Rowan said, flashing him a big grin. Brion couldn't help but laugh, and Rowan joined him in a second.
You didn't think Eilon died, did you? I could never kill him; he's a key character here.
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