© 1999 Eric Case, all rights reserved Please
don't post this story on any other sites without my permission. Just email
me and ask and chances are pretty good that I'll say yes!
There are some things in the story that may not be explained all that
well and may leave the audience with questions. If you have the patience
to wait till I release the first three episodes, I think most or all of
your questions would be answered by it then, but if it's something that
can't wait, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com and
I will respond ASAP with answers to questions, or just to explain things
that aren't too clear.
Verdan awoke the following morning in the still time just before the birds wake up. When he had served Mordak, he rarely got to sleep in and so it was customary for him to be up before dawn. He looked around noticing Arden standing in the same spot and position as he was the previous night. He realized Arden had stood there on guard protecting them all night. He moved slightly changing his position, and Arden turned alerted by his movement. Verdan stood up and stretched a moment yawning, his boyhood innocence returning for a moment. Arden smiled at him as he walked over to where Arden stood.
"Thanks..." he said softly looking at the ground, "..for ... you know.. the blankets last night." Arden rested a strong finger under the boy's chin and tilted Verdan's head upward to look at him. The boy's eyes locked on his. "I.. I want you to have this," Verdan said reaching around his neck under his tunic and retrieving the pendant. He motioned for Arden to lower himself so that the boy could place the pendant around Arden's neck. Arden knelt down and the boy reached around his neck to fasten the clasp of the pendant's chain behind Arden's strong neck. When it was done Verdan ran his little hands over Arden's shoulders to Arden's chest and left them there a moment. His eyes met Arden's again and the boy gave Arden a nervous smile. "I .. think I can trust you.. Arden." The boy's hands were tingling slightly being in close contact with Arden's broad chest and he knew it was true. He finally found someone to trust. He could trust Arden. He could love Arden, and he started to cry. Something he had never let anyone but his mother witness. Tears ran down the boys face as he trembled slightly. Arden brought his hands to the boys sides under his arms. "Arden?" he said softly with a shaky voice.
"Yes Verdan," Arden answered with a soft tone. He hated seeing the boy cry, but knew it was part of his healing from the wounds Mordak had given him.
"Can... Can you..." he paused forming the words in his mind then making them with his mouth. "Arden can you please hold me?" Arden, still with his slight smile on his face nodded to the boy who through his arms around Arden's neck. Arden wrapped his big arms around the boy's back rubbing the back of his neck gently. "I'm scared Arden," the boy said softly.
"I won't let Mordak get you Verdan," Arden said calmly, but with such conviction his sheen flared into the boy sending a chill down his spine.
"I didn't really mean that..." the boy continued slowly. "I mean.. I'm afraid of you.."
"Why?" Arden asked slightly amused but hiding it to save the boy's feelings.
"You make me want to trust .. like totally trust you but.." the boy hesitated.
you're afraid of being hurt.." Arden finished Verdan's sentence understanding
what Verdan was going through. Verdan pulled back and looked Arden in the
eyes and his face said yes. "It's okay Verdan," he said calmly. "Trust
is earned. You take your time and be sure for your own sake.. no worries
okay?" Verdan nodded more happily that Arden understood. "Now you go get
some more sleep. We have a couple more hours yet before its time to get
up." Arden said to the boy who yawned once again. Verdan went back to his
little pile of blankets and smiling covered up and fell asleep lighthearted,
Arden stood watch over the camp as the sun came up over the crest of the mountains they were camped on the edge of. Once the light shone down the face of the mountains Arden judged it was time to get the day started. "Okay, it's time to get up," he called out to their small camp. He hoped to reach the first crest of the mountains by nightfall so they'd have a full day to cross the mountain valleys. There were only around 5 hours of daylight in the mountain valleys so the mountain orcs had nearly 19 hours to lurk in the shadows. He also wanted to stop at Gracian's shop which was on the way up the mountain. The old man there sold mountain gear and shelters you could fold up into your pack, and they'd need these for the cold mountain nights. Jarin and Joshia would also need short swords to defend themselves. The daggers were good, but were no match for a band of orcs if they attacked.
The camp was by now awake, and his five companions were packing up camp and saddling up their horses. A few minutes later they were mounted and continuing their journey to the top of the near foothills. Jarin and Joshia chattered quietly (actually Jarin chattered and Joshia listened), while Darius and Darien rode in silence. Verdan sat in front of Arden atop Alkhor leaning back against Arden happily while Arden held one hand gently against Verdan's stomach to keep him steady. Verdan was thinking through all the things that had happened since he had come to Arden, and how for the very first time in his life, right at this moment, he felt completely safe. He looked to his left, northward at the horizon at the way the gray stone of the mountains had torn up through the ground like they were reaching for something unseen in the sky. An eagle called out and the six riders listened to the sounds of nature.
Jarin and Joshia couldn't remember ever being this far from Islan and their hearts raced at the though of the great adventure they were on. The stories they could tell their friends when they returned and freed Islan from the Ithilians. They were also learning to focus their sheen and hoped that soon Arden would teach them to use their magic. They had seen Verdan the previous day when he cast a bolt of energy at the Krias and wanted to be able to do that too.
That action was also pressing on Arden's mind this morning. How had Verdan learned to cast energy like that? Had Mordak taught him, or had he simply seen Mordak and through imitating Mordak's actions been able to do it himself. "Verdan," Arden said quietly. The others didn't need to hear their conversation.
"Yes Arden?" Verdan chirped.
"When you cast the energy yesterday.. when I was fighting on the bridge." Arden said slowly. He didn't want the boy to think he had done anything wrong by using his magic if Mordak had taught him it, so he wanted to treat the subject delicately. "How did you learn to do that Verdan?"
The boy sighed deeply and leaned harder into Arden. When he touched Arden, he tingled and Verdan loved the sensation. Whenever Mordak had touched him, he had felt sick and cold. "I saw Mordak do it.. he used to take the people of Ardun who spoke out for justice and tortured them.." the boy trailed off holding back a sob. He felt miserable at the things he had seen, but being here with Arden, he felt happy and alive and the two feelings battled inside him.
Arden sensed the boys feelings becoming too much for him and leaned forward slightly to rest his cheek against the boys head with his mouth near Verdan's ear. "Sshhhh.." he said soothing the boys pain. "You're far away from that place, and all the things that happened there." He paused. "Did Mordak teach you to cast your energy?"
"No," the boy said beginning to relax again as Arden nudged the horse with his feet to get a bit more speed. They were trotting along and Arden wanted to quicken the pace since it was already nearing noon and in the valley the days were much shorter than the nights. "I used to watch him and listen.. it was better than watching... well.. you know." The boy said awkwardly.
"It's okay Verdan. Have you ever used it before?" He asked. The boy shook his head no. "Well that's good." He said quietly to the boy. They rode on in silence for awhile longer in silence and reached the crest of the foothills. They paused on the edge looking down into the Anendin valley, one of the most fertile areas in the known world, but no one had lived there since the fall of the Ardent Kingdom. In times of old, farmers had lived there knowing that the power and reputation of the Ardent Kingdom would keep orcs, trolls, as well as common thieves away from their homesteads. After the fall of the Kingdom, it's influence receded and in time the dwarves who had established trade centers in the mountains had left and the orcs had moved in. Only a few small settlements remained, their stone or wood walls protecting the inhabitants.
Everywhere Arden had journeyed, he had seen the same thing. Once peaceful areas inhabited by farmers had been attacked by evil forces, and now the once peaceful people, lived in walled cities in fear of the outside world. Arden had also always been an outsider, and had rarely received a warm welcome. Even in Islan, the city he had been called to by it's people, he wasn't trusted. Everyone from the outside was an enemy trying to get inside to destroy the city. It would soon be righted.
Arden nudged his horse forward down the foothills into the valley. He wanted to reach Gracien tonight. The people there owed him a favor and Arden intended to collect it today. They cantered along the light green fields of the valley. Verdan was young but his body showed the heavy loads he had borne over his young life. His body was taut, although slim. His toned back and shoulders could be seen easily through his tunic, as well as his shapely legs. Arden had to admit the boy was attractive with his blue eyes so rich with life, that twinkled in any light that fell on them. Verdan was also feeling this same kind of attraction to Arden. This man who he had felt such anger towards was slowly winning him over with nothing but kindness and love, something Verdan had not received from anyone save his mother. But here was Arden. This amazing specimen of strength, courage, and power, who still had a side so sensitive and giving and kind. Arden was one who would give his life instantly for someone else.
"Hey Arden?" Verdan said breaking the silence of their ride.
"Yes Verdan," Arden answered.
"You know when you were fighting those Krias today?" He began. Arden nodded his head. "Weren't you scared?" The boy asked, the pitch of his voice rising slightly.
"Do you want the truth, or the hero's answer?" Arden laughed.
Verdan smiled "the truth of course."
"Well then yes Verdan I was scared today. Anyone who has stood against a Krias and not felt SOME fear is more foolish than brave. There's nothing wrong with being afraid every now and then Verdan. The trick is not letting your fear control your actions!" Arden said quietly to the intently listening boy. Arden's words were spoken softly, but he was a captivating speaker. The words rolled off his tongue and seemed to make so much sense as they landed on Verdan's ears.
"When you were on the bridge fighting them and I used my power on them.. I did it cause I was scared. Is that bad?" The boy asked a little concerned.
"No.. your fear didn't drive you to anger or the blast of energy wouldn't have been that bluish white color. It would have been gray, or even black. Fear is a motivating factor in that it keeps us alive, but if it drives you to anger or hatred, and you act out of those emotions, then you need to be concerned." Arden answered softly. It was like every time he spoke, the boy relaxed further. He understood soo easily what Arden said as if he had known it all along. "You have much to learn Verdan, but you are still young and have time to learn it." he said tenderly giving the boy a gentle squeeze.
"Why do you care about people so much?" The boy asked. Since he now had a conversation going with Arden, he didn't want it to stop and learning more about Arden made him feel almost privileged. "I mean, you don't even really know me and I've treated you pretty badly and haven't exactly been nice and you still stay so calm.." he trailed off realizing that through all the scowls he had sent Arden, Arden had never once shown anger, or reacted with anything but love and understanding.
"Well to answer the first question.. if everyone cared about everyone else, then the world would be a much better place," Arden as the boy turned his head to smile at him. "And well for the second part," he continued, "I can still remember the day you were born and the day you were named. You were a young boy when I left, but I was near your age, and I remember you very well. Verdan.." Arden said. "Your mother is a great woman and I love her dearly as I would love my own mother if I knew who she was," Arden half chuckled to himself.
"People have said I was named for you, but I never really understood what it meant," the boy said softly. He did remember Arden, the boy he had played with as a young child. Arden had left when he was still very young and he hadn't understood why at the time. He still didn't fully understand since it was forbidden in Ardun to speak of it.
"Well your name is Kayan Verdan. Ver means 'servant' or 'to serve', and dehn mean's prince. I'm still not sure what the point of it all was. Your mother had spoken to my father about it and that is what they had come up with." Arden said as he slowed Alkhor to a halt. "There it is.. Gracien" he said to the group. "This is where we will spend the night. Gracien exists today because I saved it, so eat well when they bring you food or they will see it as an insult." Arden nudged Alkhor gently and the horse continued on to the gates of the small city.
Gracien was not large, but it was not small. It was well fortified against the attacks the orcs had made on it previously. It's gray stone walls cut from the same rock as the mountains was scorched black in some spots where the Orcs had tried cutting their way through. Arden could remember when the men of the cities he trained had made the black marks. He could also remember the first time he had come to the city, chased by hunting dogs and a band of orcs. He had run to the city and a kind family had hidden him. It had cost them their lives but Arden survived.
They rode to the gates of the city and Arden was recognized immediately and the heavy doors were drawn open before him. The people of the city turned out to greet him as he rode through the main street to the inn. Verdan had never seen this behavior towards Arden before and he was amazed by it. When Arden dismounted Alkhor, he turned and lifted Verdan down and chills ran up and down the boys spine from the physical contact as Arden set the boy down. He then turned and entered the inn while the others followed closely and their horses were lead to the stable.
"Welcome back to Gracien Arden!" the inn keeper shouted to him as he entered.
"It's good to be back," Arden said with a smile. Arden didn't want to be in Gracien, but fortune had dealt him this hand and as always he decided to make the most of it. He would be able to sleep well tonight, once more instead of his usual 'standing watch'. "We need rooms," Arden continued as he reached the bar standing next to a man who was obviously drunk.
"How many?" the inn keeper asked.
"Three." Arden answered. "We will be leaving tomorrow afternoon, and I need a good night's sleep."
"Sounds good to me.. only three rooms though?" The inn keeper asked. "I see six of you, I suppose the three boys can share a room..." the keeper trailed off.
The drunk next to Arden turned to him. "Don't tell me y'all are a set of 'dose ancient freaks who .." Arden drew his sword and placed it next to the man's throat in such a quick smooth motion that it seemed more like Arden had simply reached up to take a sword that was hanging from the man's neck.
"It's so important to your future on this plane of existence that you don't finish that question.. You should be at home caring for your wife and children making sure your sons grow to be useful citizens." Arden's tone had changed to one of stone. It didn't have any anger or malice in it, but was stern as the steal at the man's throat.
"Beggin yer pardon mister Arden sir!" The drunken man squeaked. "I'll be takin my leave now!" Arden withdrew his sword and the man skittered off out of the inn.
"I'm headed to my room." Arden said as his demeanor lightened instantly. "You five can stay here and get yourselves some food and drink.. not too much of the ale though Darien and Darius." He smiled and headed off followed by the inn keeper who showed him to his room. Verdan sat down at the table that the four others of their party were sitting at and looked at them awkwardly. He looked towards the corridor hoping to see Arden return but there was no sign of him. Verdan didn't want to be left alone with Jarin and Joshia, or the older two. He'd never even been introduced to them before, and he felt alone without Arden. He needed Arden and he.. he didn't want to be alone with the other four.
The others were all talking about the fight on the bridge when Verdan got up. "I'm kinda sleepy.. umm.. I'm gonna go to bed so I'll see you guys in the morning." The group all smiled and said goodnight and he gave his own smile back to them. All four were slightly taken aback at the young boy's beauty when his smile crossed his face. He walked over to the bar to ask the inn keeper what room he was supposed to stay in.
"There are rooms 5, 6, and 7 in the west hallway. Your big friend is in room 7, so I guess you can have one of the other two." The inn keeper said giving Verdan a look that made the boy uncomfortable.
"Thanks," Verdan said and he headed off down the main corridor to the western hall and found room 7 and knocked on the door. Arden came to the door and opened it looking down at the boy who was fidgeting from one foot to another nervously. He looked up at Arden and softy said, "umm.. Arden? Would it be okay if I stayed with you tonight? I don't really know the others, and I'm kinda .. nervous I guess.."
"It's okay Verdan, come on in," Arden said softy. He had figured the boy would end up spending the night with him. He certainly didn't mind the company of the boy who so intrigued him. Verdan's use of magic earlier had spiked Arden's interest in the boy greatly. Only the most powerful mages could cast their energy the way Verdan had done the previous day. There was also "just something about Verdan!" Arden thought to himself.
Verdan felt the same way. He loved Arden. It was as simple as that. He had known him for no more than a couple days now, but already couldn't be without him for longer than a few minutes before he felt.. strange. It was like he felt naked, or incomplete when Arden was away from him. Verdan felt silly feeling this way about a man, but it wasn't any man, it was Arden. He had tried to hate Arden, but the young man had slowly won him over, and now.. "Arden..." Verdan said softly.
"Yes Verdan, what's up?" Arden asked as he laid his heavy sword on the table beside his bead. He undid the clasp to his cloak and hung it on the coat rack by the door and stood in front of Verdan in his vest and pants.
"Can we... Arden can we talk?" Verdan asked nervously sitting down on the bed.
"'Course we can," Arden said maintaining his position.
"Can you like sit down?" he asked, his nervousness still ever-present in his tone of voice. "It's kinda dumb.." the boy said.
Arden sat down a coupe of feet from the boy with his right leg up on the bed so he could face the boy who also turned. "Now Verdan," he began in a soothing tone, "there's obviously something bothering you. Now what do you say you tell me what it is, and we can deal with it together? Sound good?"
The boy smiled and nodded and Arden waited while the boy searched for the words to begin. "See.. it's kinda.. well.. I don't trust anybody Arden, but I trust you. I don't know why. I've tried to hate you! I've been so mean to you, but you've still been so nice." Arden held out a hand and rested it gently on the boys shoulder and gave it a tender squeeze. Verdan had been looking down at the bed between then and his eyes met Arden's as tears welled up inside them. "I didn't exactly tell you the truth earlier Arden." Verdan said softly, his voice shaky. Arden smiled. "I didn't just learn how to cast my energy from Mordak. I learned it from this old man that worked the grounds near the castle. He showed me how and told me only to use it in emergencies or I'd get sick." Arden knew the man he was speaking of and nodded. "He also taught me some other magic stuff, like words and things. He taught me how to speak some Kayan too." He paused for a few moments like he was debating something.
you okay?" Arden asked softly.
Verdan took a deep breath, then moved forward and threw his arms around Arden's neck. "I love you Arden te ak mai al'amia k'iana.." the boy whispered. Arden was shocked that the boy could speak Kayan so well, but it was the words he spoke that meant more to Arden than any he had ever heard. The boy had said "I love you Arden, you are my true light of love." In a better translation, the boy was pledging his love, trust, and heart to Arden.
"I love you too Verdan," Arden said softly holding his own tears in. "Te mu kara mai hor fengia." This meant "you have my heart always." Arden stood with the boy still in his arms and they held one another for a few moments before Arden set the now smiling boy down.
"Do.. you.. wanna... you know?" Verdan asked raising an eyebrow giving Arden a coy smile.
"Do I want to what?" Arden asked, a little unsure of what Verdan meant. He couldn't mean...
"Fool around," the boy giggled. "Do sex stuff!"
Arden's jaw dropped for a moment. "Listen.. Verdan," he began. "All of that isn't something we have to do."
"Oh.." the boy said looking away to the ground. His look changed to one of pain as his stomach wrenched itself into a knot. "You don't want me. You've got Jarin and Joshia." Verdan said softly.
Arden knelt down and turned the boys face to look him in the eyes. "No Verdan that's not it at all. I don't want you to think that you have to do anything you don't want to do Verdan. The fact is that I never forgot you on all my travels, and so many times I wondered if you were okay, and then I saw you in a dream not knowing it was you, then held a Sraltha to see you and found out that it was you Verdan. Then you came on Alkhor to me and I find myself feeling love for you when I haven't known you more than two days, other than before I left and you were still so young.. I don't know what I'm trying to say Verdan, it's just so much has happened in so short a time that I'm still trying to catch up. You must be feeling even more overwhelmed than I do after what you've been through in the last couple of days. I don't want you to rush into anything you don't want to do." Arden said holding the boy's shoulders gently.
A stream of energy was flowing through Arden's hands into Verdan, as the boy listened to him. "Arden, why did you leave me out there earlier?" He asked feeling goose bumps break out over his body. He was fast becoming aroused.
"You had to choose which room you wanted to sleep in. I didn't want to force you to sleep in a room alone, or sleep in a room with me, so I left you there. If you'd asked the inn keeper, I had left instructions for you to be given a room if you'd asked." Arden said smiling at the boy. "Can I ask you a question?" Arden asked softy.
"Of course!" The boy peeped happily. He really did mean something to Arden.. Arden really did love him!
"Well, what, and how, do you know about 'sex stuff' as you put it?" Arden chuckled softly at the boy as Verdan blushed at the question.
"I kinda heard stories from other servant boys about what they're masters made them do.. they kinda got traded around from one master to the next, but I served Mordak so no one was allowed to touch me," he said with a half smile. He hadn't had the best life, but being in the service of Mordak had been somewhat sheltered from physical actions against him. His mother also held a special place in Mordak's world of darkness since she was one of the few women alive with Kayan blood. "So do you wanna do somethin?" Verdan asked, his eyes sparking in the firelight.
"I suppose so," Arden said still unsure. He found it difficult to get 'in the mood' after his experiences as a child.
"Please Arden? I love you!" The boy said with enthusiasm. He reached out and undid one of the buckle's holding Arden's vest shut. Then he moved forward and pressed his lips to Arden's for the first time. A surge of energy shot into Arden, stronger than anything he'd ever felt and he jumped slightly when their lips first touched. "It's okay Arden," the boy said softly pulling back for a moment to look into Arden's eyes. Then he pressed his lips to Arden's again, more forcefully this time, and energy from Verdan coursed into Arden. Arden gasped and backed up a bit to look at the boy.
"What is that you're doing Verdan?" Arden asked.
"I know how to focus Arden!" He said in a tone that said 'silly man'. "Right now I'm focusing on you."
Arden sat down on the edge of his bed and motioned for the boy to come to him, then he lifted the boy onto his lap. The boy listened intently as Arden began to speak in a quiet, but powerful voice. "Verdan, when I ran from Ardun, I promised myself I'd return and free my people. I intended to take on the world, believing that nothing could stop me. The thing was that I was just a boy, not much older than you Verdan. I learned very quickly, that it's a bigger world than my castle in Ardun, and that there are a lot of bad things that can happen to little boys out there." He drew the boy close. "That's why I don't want to take things too quickly.. some things happened to me when I was your age, and it's hard for me to do those things now."
"What happened Arden?" The boy asked with his ear against Arden's chest, and his head turned to the side. He listened to Arden's voice and breathing, as he sat on Arden's lap. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want," he said softly sensing Arden's painful memories.
Jarin, Joshia, Darius, and Darrien, had been talking amongst themselves when Verdan took his leave. They said goodnight, and he went up to the inn keeper, then skittered off down the hallway. "Well he's getting a little more comfortable with Arden I think," Darien said quietly.
"Yeah, when he first got here, the whole attitude thing was pissin me off," Jarin said.
"He probably had a tough life Jarin," Joshia said softly. "That can change the way a person looks at people, and things in general."
"Now that's a good point Joshia," Darius said calmly. "What about your parents. Do they know you two are off on this adventure?"
"Yeah, they know, I wrote them a note," Jarin answered.
"What about your parents Joshia?" Asked Darien.
"Well Jarin's parents are my parents too," Joshia said softly.
"You're brothers then?" asked Darius not understanding.
Joshia gave an uncomfortable look to Jarin who spoke up. "Joshia's parents were both killed when he was very young. He came to Islan with my parents wince our families are very close. They died protecting a prince from a far away land."
Darius and Darien both leaned back in their chairs eyeing Joshia calmly. The four companions shared an awkward moment then Jarin broke the silence. "Well, I dunno about you three, but I'm gettin sleepy!" The suddenness of his speech, and the tone of his voice, struck a cord with all the others and they all laughed for a moment.
"Okay Jarin, we'll all go to bed.. but Joshia, I'm sorry about your parents. They must have been good people though." Darius said softly. The four stood and walked up to the inn keeper and asked where their rooms were, and after getting the numbers explained, the four headed off, Jarin and Joshia in the room closest to Arden's, Darius and Darien in the other.
Jarin and Joshia were in their room they sat down on the bed together talking.
Both knew Verdan was in Arden's room, but neither cared. They understood
Arden's and Verdan's need for each other. The boys stripped down to their
underclothes and climbed into bed together, Joshia cuddling up close behind
Jarin protecting him.