© 1999 Eric Case, all rights reserved Please
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Arden awoke to the face of his young boy Verdan as he was tended to by soft caressing strokes of a damp cloth across his forehead. "Glad to see you're still with me," he whispered to Arden with a look of concern and love. Then he giggled. "Didn't that wizard friend of yours teach you not to exhaust your sheen like that? You nearly got yourself killed. When the eagle brought you here you barely had ANY energy at all," he ended matter-of-factly like a mother telling her son he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and just told him he was grounded.
"Did you really believe I'd get myself killed and leave you behind?" Arden asked softly. His entire body ached from exhaustion and it hurt to talk. Verdan was right though. Rafiar had exhausted his strength the way Arden had, and he had been killed while he was weakened.
Verdan smiled lovingly down at Arden and planted a gentle kiss on Arden's forehead. "You better not ever leave me, or I'll kick your butt!" Verdan began giggling hysterically as Arden tickled him. They rolled around in the small hut for some time tickling one another eventually ending up with Arden on his back with Verdan "pinning" him by sitting astride Arden's chest, and holding Arden's hands above his head. The boy's smiling face suddenly grew serious as he felt his passion build. If there was one place in the world, where he and Arden would be safe to explore each other, it was here in Kara Azure. The mountain fortress could not be scaled by the soldiers of Mordak, and was protected by the Great Eagles. "We were in the middle of something before we were interrupted yesterday," the boy said seductively. The boys tactics of persuasion were wasted on Arden who's own sheen, even in it's weakened state, was too powerful for the boy to overcome.
"We were discussing the migration of gorthoks weren't we?" Arden asked smiling at the boy.
"How come it doesn't work on you?" Verdan asked.
"Well for starters, I'm stronger than you," Arden said holding back his own giggles only until the boy was set off with his own fit of them. "Secondly, you can't use your sheen to seduce someone who already loves you."
"I love you too Arden," the boy said softly as he leaned forward to kiss Arden. The kiss started out soft and tender, but as they continued to grow in their passion, so too did their kiss. Then the boy pulled back and looked longingly at Arden. Arden gently pulled the boy's shirt open revealing that taut stomach and firm lightly-muscled chest. Arden kissed the boy's collar bones surging energy into Verdan. Verdan gasped, "Arden don't you'll weaken yourself again."
"It'll be okay Verdan," Arden said softly. He began giving the boy angel kisses all over his chest and stomach, sending little jolts of energy into the boy each time, stimulating all of Verdan's sexual nerves. He kissed and sucked on the boy's nipples as Verdan's chest heaved. The boy was panting now, and his firm organ could be seen easily through his light pants. Arden put his tongue into the boy's navel and cupped his lips around it sucking gently. Verdan grabbed Arden's head moaning loudly begging Arden to finish him. The pleasure was almost too much for the boy. He was completely intoxicated by it. Arden kissed the boy's hard penis through his pants and received a low moan from the boy. A horn sounded signaling the start of a new day for the Petrüia.
"We have to go don't we?" the boy asked softly.
"That we do Verdan.. Don't worry. There will be another time for this."
The boy smiled and rose to his feet. "Well.. you're good enough to travel.. hope our little workout wasn't too much for you, but even if it was, you'll get better soon so get up!"
Arden chuckled and they got themselves up and dressed in silence exchanging tender looks of love. As Arden finished putting his cloak back on he heard rumbling laughter headed for the hut he was now occupying. The pain in his head, and the aching in his body was subsiding as his energy returned to him and he began to pool it into himself. Verdan followed him out of the woven hut through the feathered curtain that hung in it's doorway. As his eyes grew accustomed to the blasting light of the sun he saw a massive form moving towards him. Arden sensed no malice so he stood his ground as the figure moved closer than grasped him up into unbelievably powerful arms. "ARDEN.." came a rough voice as the face came into focus.
"Corbren?!" Arden said as his face broke into a smile. "What happened to you?!"
"What happened to me? I dunno what do you mean?" the big man asked off as he set Arden down.
"Well the last time I saw you, you sure weren't this big!"
The bulging man slapped his chest and took in a deep breath. "This high mountain air, climbing the mountains, and learning to use my axe all made me bigger." Verdan looked at the big man standing in front of Arden. He looked about seventeen revolutions old - around the same age as Arden.. a little younger. Arden, who usually looked large and intimidating, looked small in comparison to the other man. The man, Corbren, wore a gray gorthoc pelt with his head through a hole in it's center that was tied around his waste with a strap of leather. He ware heavy feather-lined boots, and the muscles in his legs strained through his thick sacrobun hide pants. It was the width of Corbren's shoulders, and his massive arms that drew the most of Verdan's attention.
Arden also took in the site before him, comparing Corbren to the 'little guy' he'd brought back from Akifra. "Well.. you look pretty damn big now.."
"So when do we leave?" Corbren asked growing more serious.
"When do WE leave?" Jarin repeated as he and Joshia joined the group. "You're coming with us?"
"Course!" Corbren answered smiling.
"How do you know we're going somewhere?" Jarin asked looking at the big man before him quizzically. He saw Corbren differently. Corbren to him looked - to put it bluntly - like a big dummy. He has spoken to Corbren the previous night and early the same day and had noticed Corbren's blank expression when he was asked about anything that required real thought. It wasn't at all that Jarin didn't like Corbren.. he was a funny guy and nice enough to talk to, and Jarin bet that Corbren could handle himself in a fight, but he didn't find Corbren at all intimidating, and as Jarin had shown earlier that morning, he wasn't afraid to tell Corbren when he was acting.. inappropriately.
"Everybody knows!" Corbren said in a childlike manner. "Word is out, the Shakai is on the move for the sword, and soon the day of challenge will be here! And here is the Shakai, you, your friend Joshia, and Verdan!"
"Verdan?" Asked Joshia. "I thought it was Arden, who was the third."
"Nooooo silly!" The giant smiled down to the boys. "Arden is the second Wigami. The greatest ordeals will be his, but it is through the strength of the Shakai that the Wigami will draw his strength." He paused and looked at the group as they absorbed what he was saying. "I studied," Corbren laughed. Arden turned it over in his mind. Reviewing the legends, and prophecies he had been taught by Rafiar. "The Shakai is the eternal council for the Wigami who will rule with the sword of Justice in hand.. he who is true of heart.. all that stuff?" Corbren said shaking his head slightly trying to explain his view by reciting bits from whatever book he had read.
"What book is this in?" Arden asked suddenly.
"You can read it, but it's mine.." Corbren said quickly. "Ya can't have it cause it's mine and I gotta always keep it cause the wizard told me so.." Corbren seemed to revert from his wise speech pattern back to a more childish manner. "Rafiar showed me where to find it and said I must always keep it close. Let only those who you trust to see it, and only the Shakai and Wigami to read it he said." Then Corbren turned and began trotting away. "Come on!" He shouted back. "It's in my house in the glade! You'll have to get your stuff and come with me cause there aint no way I'm climbing back up here again, no way, no way at all!"
"You climbed the mountain?!" Arden yelled back in disbelief.
"Of course! But I left my axe so I gotta go back. Yes sirree I gotta go back," he said as he slowed to wait for the rest.
Arden jogged up beside him. "I know the way, and so do the eagles.. you head down and get your things ready to go, and we'll meet you there soon okay?" Corbren nodded, smiled, turned, and trotted off again. Then Arden turned back to the and they headed to the Royal chamber of the Petrüia. Arden strode to the doors of the great hall confidently, ignoring the guards who were posted at them. They held their staffs together to bar the way, but Arden simply said, "stand aside and let me pass," and the two guards removed themselves from Arden's path. Arden moved through the doorway and into the palace.
The great hall was made completely of polished stone, and the arched roof of the main room of the palace gleamed brightly. "Arden!" Came the voice of Azure II, king of the Petruia. "Welcome.. welcome."
"Your majesty," Arden said as he knelt before the king.
"Now Arden, there's no need for you to kneel before me, it is I who should be kneeling before you!" The king said with his powerful voice. Verdan examined the King for the second time that day. Azure stood nearly as tall as Arden but was more slender as well as being a few years older. Great golden wings rose through his white robe and folded down his back. The king's eyes were a light shade of gray, and his gaze was stern yet friendly at the same time. The king's dark hair rested lightly around his face in the type of cut that would have been suitable for a page-boy in other kingdoms.
"Corbren's still living around here I see," Arden said with a smile. "I told you he'd grow on you and before you knew it he'd be a permanent resident didn't I?"
"That you did Arden. He left the city to move to a lower altitude though. All in all he's a polite young man," the king said. He leaned forward and added muttering, "even if he is a little on the dim witted side."
Arden and Azure chuckled at this. Queen Elevion joined the group. Her flowing blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes were intoxicating to look at. "Your majesty," Arden said smiling.
"Arden," she said as she moved forward and gave Arden a gentle hug. "We have missed your smiling face! When we last saw you you were not much older than these two with you," she said smiling at Jarin and Joshia who were both equally taken aback by her intense beauty. Then she paused and looked at Arden as if she had some great news for him.
"What is it?" Arden asked, reading her face.
"Well, we've brought you a visitor.." as she spoke a man entered the hall. He was as tall as Arden and looked about 20 - 25 years older.
Arden could hardly believe his eyes, and rubbed them before looking at the man before him again. "Hello sweet prince," the man said.
Arden felt a rush of joy, and energy serge through him and he nearly fell over as his head swam. "I thought you were dead," Arden said in a near whisper. The group were all a little surprised by Arden's behavior, never having seen him act like that before.
"I nearly was.. when I came to I wasn't able to walk, and it was a month before I was up and about again. I searched that entire border-town for you, but you weren't there.. Then I heard from some that you had been taken to Akifra to meet a wizard. I followed to Akifra but never found you. In time I settled in a small Elvin town to the south-east of Cragen."
"It's been a long time Thorium," Arden said as he walked to the man and threw his arms around him.
"I see you've grown into a powerful man Arden," Thorium said proudly. "I always knew you'd be okay. I'm so glad I was right!" Thorium paused and gave Arden a profound look. "You go to Cragen now don't you?" Arden nodded. "Good, then I'm going with you. Do you still know how to fight with a sword the way I taught you Arden?"
Arden smiled and stepped back, drawing Kyaszar. He swung the sword in arching circles, casting it back to each side of his body, then after swinging it behind his back, and switching hands, he brought it up high above his head and then swung it crashing down just inches above the marble floor. "I told you I'd remember everything you taught me and that I'd be fine when I first left." They exchanged a smile then turned back to the group. "This is Thorium, the man who saved me in the Oran Wastelands when I was first banished from Ardun," Arden explained.
The whole group seemed to relax slightly and instantly warmed to the somewhat aged man standing next to Arden. Jarin guessed the man to be around the age of 40 as he was not a young man, yet not an old man. Verdan who had been uneasy about Arden's reaction towards seeing this man, relaxed completely as he realized who the man was. The one who had been called the traitor. The one man who the Kindom of Ardun had been told to hate almost as much as Arden. When Arden had first left, or been banished as was the case, many men held strong to the ideals of Fengal the fallen king, and many still held Arden as the true king of Ardun. Kordum had gone to great lengths to "remove" the so called "villains" among the people. Two years into his rein he had set up the "Dahk Toufas".. the very same troupers Arden and his group had fled from during the Attack upon Gracien.
Verdan had also heard the stories of what the more important leaders of the Dahk Toufas enjoyed doing to their servant boys, and thus Verdan had been comfortable as Mordak's servant. The withered man had never touched him there, and hadn't allowed anyone else to either. One man had tried, but had been punished for it so severely that most of the men living in the "royal" palace feared to look the boy in the eyes. They also knew of the boy's special powers and he was feared as a young Mordak and was never accepted by anyone as being a little boy. "Arden's different," he thought to himself as he looked up at the two men. Arden didn't fear him like others did. Arden respected him and loved him for who he was. Shivers ran through the boy as he smiled despite his efforts to look serious in front of everyone.
Arden introduced each member of the group to Thorium ending with Verdan. "This is the one who sent me to help you Arden," Thorium said softly as he shook the young boy's hand. Verdan remembered the day Arden had been sent away quite well, and he remembered telling Thorium he had to help him. The group talked for a few moments of their adventure so far from the journey's beginning in Islan up to their flight from Gracien.
"So you took on two Krias?" Thorium said in near disbelief (about 70% disbelief, 30% pride).
"I learned from the best," Arden said smiling. "We better head for Corbren's though before he gets impatient and starts cutting down trees with that axe of his," Arden chuckled.
The group, now joined by Thorium, left the hall after giving their thanks and goodbyes to the King and Queen. Then Several of the Great Eagles picked each of them up lightly with large talons and swooped one by one down to the glade where Corbren's house sat, and the horses grazed, waiting for their riders. The air here was much warmer and Corbren had shed his furs and was now plainly visible under the two kriss-crossing leather straps that held his heavy gorthoc-hide pants.
"All ready to go!" Corbren shouted to Arden as Arden's eagle set him down gently.
"Good!" Arden said stifling his laughter. Something about the big yet slow giant amused Arden to no end. Corbren had been a skinny kid the last time he'd seen him. Now he overshadowed Arden in size by almost half.
"Corbren's huge!" Joshia whispered to Jarin. "I betcha he could even give Arden a good fight!"
"No way," Jarin said with a sharp whisper. "Corbren's big, but you've seen Arden fight. Corbren wouldn't stand a chance!"
Verdan overheard the whispers and smiled at Joshia, who responded with his own shy grin. "What do you think Verdan?" Jarin asked turning with Joshia's gaze.
Looking at Corbren, Verdan saw a great warrior. Corbren was definitely someone who would follow his orders and stand till the last. Then he looked at Arden, and there was no comparison. Arden could think his way through things, and as Verdan had already seen, would never give up. No comparison. Verdan shrugged. "I doubt we'll ever get to see it. Still, Arden would win hands down," he said softly. Jarin and Joshia exchanged a knowing look between the two of them and held their giggling inside. They knew in Verdan's eyes, Arden could take on the world. They also knew that he was probably right, and would have to be for them to defeat the evil that was now seeping into the world. The three of them shivered simultaneously as they felt the gripping chill that was forcing its way into the world.
* * *
Mordak sat in his tower, as rage and bitterness made his blood seem to boil. He had lost the boy, the pendant, and a whole Legion of his troopers. What was worse was the size of Arden's little band of merry men was growing larger much too quickly for his liking. Arden had done too many works of good, and had far to many friends.. or fans.. to be left without help. Mordak would have to meet Arden's group with full force at Cragen, and he would have to get his troops there before Arden crossed Borundine.
Well there's Episode IV, Chapter 10 finished! Sorta took awhile but I've been REAL busy since school's started again, and with some other stories (After The Dance, Something About Julian, Laughter and Love, and Myles and Mark.)