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When Ashes Fall like Rain

Book By: Gustopher
Fantasy


Shareg is a young boy who needs to find his Destiny.


Submitted:Mar 28, 2011    Reads: 68    Comments: 3    Likes: 1   


Chapter one: The Story Begins
I am Shareg Jenowe. I was born into the village of Cilf in the land of Gildok. I don't like to tell the things I've seen. I'm not proud of many things I've done. These things I do not tell willingly. It is only from a desire for the truth that I tell them at all. These things are like visions from the past breaking forth like a plague unto a world that has known only peace and prosperity. A wave that destroys all in its path to muridness.
I have seen women ripped from the arms of their husbands, tortured, beaten, and finally stabbed to death. I've seen hardened men sliced open and left to die. My brother was hurled into our village well by these barbarous warriors. When it was all done………the men laughed. One grabbed my sister's limp form and forced his sword through her chest; a horrible way to die.
My mother was likewise killed by the man. My father was beaten to the point of death and hurled against a wall. I called the men every name that came to me trying to make them mad enough to kill me. But again they just laughed. They left me to my fate. I would have died if not for the one other survivor of my village; Knivak the blacksmith. He had hidden beneath his smithy and escaped the carnage. He nursed me back to health and gave me four gifts; a newly forged sword, a long hooded cape, a dagger, and a belt that held ten throwing hatchets. The hatchets he gave me right before I left the village. He found a pair of scout boots left behind by the warriors. These also he gave to me. I thanked him and left the village. The last thing he said to me was: "Go and take your revenge Shareg, but take also my blessing." The latter I took gladly.
The only place I knew I could go was Yinot, the trade center of our land. Though it was weeks away on foot, I turned in its direction. The woods were dark but nothing would deter me.
A cart rattled by as I walked. The driver was an old man. At his side was a long spear. He was the first human I had seen in a week. I hailed him but to no avail. He was deaf. He soon passed. I sighed as I began walking again. Memories of my plight raced through my head. Suddenly my ears pricked. I heard voices yelling. Maybe there was a village nearby. I started running towards the voices. A clearing ahead burned with light. I could smell smoke. My gut began to twist as I heard screams. I stopped at the edge of the trees. My horror burst out of me. Soldiers! Ones like the group that destroyed my home. One grabbed a young girl and began shoving his sword through her stomach. She screamed as she slowly died. A man tried to fight but was grabbed and ripped apart. No one was being spared. One young man shot a soldier in the chest with a short bow. The others yowled and yanked the young man towards them. I was glad that I couldn't see what they did to him. Suddenly a wave of anger washed over me. Without thinking I drew my sword and charged the soldiers. I knocked one over and sliced off the head of another. One was turning to see what had happened but he died with my sword in his chest. I whirled and slashed off one's leg. By that time the others were aware of me. There were about twenty of them still on their feet. The villagers began taking advantage of the distraction and fleeing. I held my sword up as the soldiers studied me. One of them growled and lunged at me. He fell dead from a slash at the back. The others rushed me. I don't remember much of the battle but I know that at some point one of them was able to cut my arm. I fell forward holding my arm as my sword crashed to the ground. I couldn't believe it! In my first real battle I fell to a cut on my arm! The soldiers gathered around and studied me. "Let's kill him!" one snarled. They all raised their swords and glared at me with red eyes. I closed mine and bowed my head. "No wait!" someone called. I waited for the swords to kill me. They never came. I could hear someone talking. I opened my eyes and saw a figure in a long robe kneeling in front of me smiling. "It's alright" he said kindly. He was an elderly man but not so that he was unable to fight. Under his robes I could see thick muscles. He rose and turned to the largest of the soldiers. "Are you mad Tinox? We could use someone like this in our ranks!" he yelled. The soldier called Tinox flinched. "He killed half our number! He's dangerous." He protested. The man in the robes rolled his eyes. "Hjolok he is a danger!" Tinox continued. Hjolok appeared to be a magician. "Fine then Tinox. I will take him as my apprentice!" he growled. The soldiers gasped. I began to cry. Now I was going to be forced to be one of them.
Hjolok let me ride in the front of the wagon with him. He put a bandage on my arm and started to tell me about himself. He told me that he was a sorcerer indeed. He had trained under some of the greatest magicians around. He had no children. He told me about how he had been forced to join the king's ranks. When he asked me my name I told him. He said my name was powerful, unique, and full of purpose. He said my namesake was a sorcerer who had brought peace to the lands long ago. We traveled nonstop for about three days straight. He taught me some spells but he mostly told me about the history of sorcery. When we finally reached the city he brought me to his home, a small house on the edge of the city. The door was unadorned but the windows held what looked like a miniature zoo. In side were endless books and cages. He said the animals were his test subjects. I looked over and around for a wand. When he asked what I was looking for and I told him he laughed. "Shareg my friend, I do not use a wand. Sorcerers use their hands, like this." He raised his hand and spoke a spell. One of the flower pots on the far side of the room rose into the air. Hjolok closed his fist slowly. The flower pot sank back onto the floor. He turned to me with a smile of satisfaction. I was extremely wary of him. My sword and belt had been taken from me after the attack. I knew almost nothing of what I wanted to know about this sorcerer. "Who are you?" I asked quietly, "Why are you forcing me to be a part of that group that destroyed my home, killed my family, raped my sister!?" Hjolok stared at me for a moment. He didn't insult me by either laughing or denying the actions. "Shareg, I am not of them. The time will come when you learn that. I am not even a supporter of the king. I hate him with a passion." He answered, "I saw what the men did so I won't act like they have a reason for it. It's evil. I have seen that and much worse believe me." I was staring at the ground feeling like a young boy once more. "Why do you serve the king if you do not love him?" I asked. Hjolok stirred uneasily. "I may act as such but I do not serve the king. I am a spy. I was sent by the Freedom Fighters." He answered slowly. I looked up at him in shock. He nodded and smiled at me grimly. I could see in his eyes the thousands of emotions that go through a man's mind. I knew also, deep in my heart, that this man was a friend.
Hjolok told me he was going to show me to the king so that I could legally be his apprentice. I was terrified. We left the house and headed for the palace. The streets were surprisingly clean. On every side I could see happy, fat merchants and traders. Yinot was a prosperous city. Every man, woman, and child was adorned in the finest robes. I felt conspicuous and out of place there. I saw one finely dressed young man of about eighteen looking at my dirty pants and shirt, which was merely rags revealing my flat muscular stomach. He leaned in to his friends and whispered something I couldn't hear. I turned to face him with angry eyes. "My friend," I said pleasantly, "If you wish to speak about me please do so where it isn't obvious to me." The young man laughed. "You think that I, a rich merchant's son, will answer to a mere peasant? One who doesn't even have decent clothing? Oh you are funny." My eyes smoldered with anger. My fists clenched. Hjolok had stopped and turned to watch but did nothing to cease the young man's harassments. The young man pointed at me and jeered, "You are a pitiful little rag! Not even a soldier would kill you! It would be such a dishonor to kill such an insignificant little bastard!" My anger broke my control. My sight went momentarily red. I charged the young man. He stopped smiling as my fist collided with his face. I backed off and let him rise. He looked at me with shock and anger. He drew a long dagger from his side. I thought for sure that Hjolok would intervene but he didn't. The young man's face was covered in blood so that I couldn't make out his features. I looked at the dagger, then him, and turned to walk away. The young man growled and lunged at me. I whirled, dodged under his dagger, and kicked him in his groin. He shrieked and fell to the ground coughing up blood. I caught up to Hjolok and we began walking to the palace. Only this time, I didn't feel so conspicuous.


The palace was large with huge gates in front of it. The guards stopped us for inspection. I was nervous. The guard searched through my shirt and was about to go for the pants but I kicked him away. He got up swearing. "Hey you little dog! I wasn't going to do that!" I held up a fist to show him I meant business and he let me pass. Hjolok was obviously impressed that I took nothing off anyone. There weren't many guards in the halls. I heard a groaning sound in a room to my left. I looked in and found out why the guards were gone……… The girls and women of raided villages were strung up by their arms along a wall. There were about thirty in there that I could see. There was a young girl of about nineteen, no older than me, being shackled viciously by a soldier. I held back the urge to run in there and kill him. Then I saw that the rest of the guards were in the corner watching and jeering. I was appalled. How could someone human do this?! I turned away quickly and followed Hjolok. I was in delusions when we entered the throne room. I looked up and my jaw fell open.
The king was enormous, a wall of bulging flesh and muscle. He wasn't fat but a giant. His name was Hultaine. I was filled with new anger to see this man. I wanted to grab a sword and hurl it into his chest. I knew however that I couldn't do this and live to tell of it. Hultaine looked down at us. "Yes Hjolok?" he asked noncommittally. Hjolok bowed. "My king, I wished to consult you on the matter of taking this boy, Shareg, as my apprentice." He said. Hultaine stared at me with a vicious eye. It felt as if he were searching my very soul for traces of deceit. I fought back the urge to look away, putting on a look of confidence that didn't reach my eyes. Hultaine's eyes roved over me for some time. I was beginning to waver when he broke off. He nodded and turned to Hjolok. "He seems worthy enough. You may teach him." He leaned down to look Hjolok in the face, "But if you find the faintest sign of treachery, I want you to tell me. You know what will happen if you don't." He leaned back and waved us away. I gave him one last look and turned to follow Hjolok. A group of bustling advisors hurried past us to attend the king. As we entered the long hallway I began to hear the jeers of the guards. The agonized wail of a woman filled the air. "Hjolok." I said. "Yes?" he answered. I stopped walking. "Where are my weapons?" Hjolok turned to me. "I do not know but I can conjour them for you." He offered. I nodded. He closed his eyes and muttered a few words of a spell. I gasped as my weapons appeared on the floor in front of me. I picked them up hastily. After a little fumbling I had them all strapped on. The hatchets hung lifeless at my side. My sword I strapped over my back and my dagger around my leg. I nodded at Hjolok and we resumed walking. When we passed the door where the guards were, I turned and entered.
What I saw nearly stopped my heart. About thirty young girls and women were hung up by their arms. The guards were lined up by a young girl of about eighteen or nineteen. They were trying to decide who would rape her first. The girl had a look of defiance on her face but her eyes were filled with horror. One of the guards whipped out his manhood and advanced on her. "I get firs' go cuz she ne'rly cut me whanger off at tha villge!" He called. Apparently the others were amused by this. They waited, jeering and laughing like hyenas. I growled and walked forward. I grabbed the would-be rapist by his hair and flung him backwards. He hit the stone floor with a thud and an 'oomph'. The other guards grunted in surprise and stared at me. The largest of the guards stepped forward. I recognized him as Tinox. "Whaddya think y're doin'?" he slurred. I realized they were all drunk. "You shall not touch this girl!" I said firmly. They all laughed. "Hey boys," Tinox called, "Lil Bit here wans ta play." He drew his sword and smiled at me. I drew my own sword and glared back. The other guards drew their weapons but seemed reluctant to fight me. Perhaps they had heard stories about my feats. I heard Hjolok behind me. Tinox ignored him and circled me. His eyes gleamed. He wanted revenge for his men. That much was clear. I held my sword out and beckoned him to charge. He did. He hit my sword with the force of a rolling wagon. My sword bent under the force of the blow. I was shocked. Even when drunk I could see Tinox would be hard to defeat. I also realized he had only four fingers on each hand. This meant he had troll blood in him. Tinox backed off and regarded me. Apparently I was more than he had bargained for as well. He looked me up and down before he charged me again. I blocked his blow to the left but he swung his sword back around to slice into my right side. The blow would have killed me but something parried the attack. I guessed that it had been Hjolok's doing. Tinox roared with rage and bombarded me with attack upon attack. I spent all of my ability blocking. There was no hope for me to attack him back. I felt my strength giving way. Without warning Tinox knocked my feet out from under me. I fell to the floor with a crash, my sword clattering away from me. I looked up and saw Tinox raising his sword for the killing stroke. "TINOX!" a huge voice suddenly bellowed. Tinox stopped short and looked up from me. What he saw made his face blanch. I scuttled away and stood back up. I then turned to see who had intervened. When I saw who it was my face went ghostly white. Hultaine was standing in the doorway with a huge axe in his hands. Hjolok was standing next to him looking triumphant. "Tinox," Hultaine said again, "Come to me." Tinox dropped his sword and obeyed. He bowed in front of Hultaine as a trembling mass. "Y-y-y-yes-s-s-s-s m-m-y l-l-lord?" he stammered. Hultaine frowned at him. "You know the penalty for fighting in my halls!" he bellowed. Tinox began trembling even harder. Hultaine turned to me. "You are exempt Shareg. You do not know all of our laws yet. But I am curious; why were the two of you fighting?" I quickly recounted the events of the past few moments, including the part about the girl. Hultaine nodded as I finished. "You did honorably Shareg. I knew not what this room was really used for. They always said it was for interrogation. Now I see they were lying." He turned to one of his advisors. "Go and fetch the jailer and the executioner." He ordered. The servant nodded and scurried of. "Shareg you may take the women who are still alive and nurse them back to health. Hjolok shut his eyes for a moment. "Only the one girl is alive my king." He said. "Very well. Take her Shareg." I bowed and picked up my sword. Tinox was looking at me with murderous eyes. I stepped up to the girl. Her eyes were the color of the sea. I grunted as my sword hit the chains but didn't break them. Hjolok raised his hands and the shackles fell away. I caught the girl as she fell forward. Tinox growled at me as I carried her past him. Hultaine frowned at him. "Do not be angry Tinox," he ordered, "You shall live through this yet. Your sentence is merely sixty lashes with the barbed whip." Horror took over Tinox's face. I smirked to myself. Hultaine turned back to me. "You and Hjolok will leave now!" he growled. I nodded. Hjolok continued to stare at Tinox as I walked out. Then he turned and followed me.
We passed through the city without mishap. When we reached the hut I carried the girl to the bed room. There I covered her with a blanket and let her sleep. I went into the main room and began digging through the cupboard. I took out a fair sized pot and started a fire. I put water in the pot and set it to boil over the flames. I found some turnips and carrots and added these. I thickened the stew with a little brown flour. I added some venison I found in Hjolok's saddlebags. The stew simmered for a long while. I sat at the table thinking while Hjolok was busy making bread. I thought of how this poor girl must have suffered. Her face was cut as were her arms. I barely even noticed that I was bleeding until Hjolok pointed it out. I realized that Tinox must have cut me while we were fighting. Hjolok healed me quickly and went back to his business. I stood around and finished the stew. I filled a bowl with it and a cup full of cold mead. I went in a laid these by the bed. As I walked out I thought I heard the girl moan, but when I looked back she was fast asleep. She didn't awaken for some hours.
I walked in and she was sitting on the bed and eating her stew. She jerked her head up and fear entered her eyes again. Her eyes were a beautiful shade of blue. I gave her a smile and sat down in a small chair. She was covered up but the fact that she was naked seemed to bother her little. When the cover fell down revealing her perfect breasts, she did nothing to cover herself again. I tried not to stare. "Hello," I said gently, trying to win her confidence, "I am a friend. My name is Shareg Jenowe. You're safe now." The girl seemed wary of me. She studied me like an animal. "What is your name?" I asked softly. She looked at me like no one had ever asked her such a question. She mumbled something I couldn't hear. "Beg pardon?" I said. "Jilan." She said louder. I nodded and asked no more from her as she ate. When she finished I took her tray into the small kitchen and left them in the wash basin. I came back into the room to find her crying. I sighed then went to sit down beside her. She turned to me and threw her arms around me. I was startled but I slowly hugged her back. Then she began to sob out her story. "I was tortured!" she sobbed, "They stole me from my home, raped and beat me! I was chained to that wall alongside my mother and sister." I remembered seeing two women dead on either side of her. One had been stabbed; one had had her throat slit. I was horrified by the ferocity of the soldiers. I could not believe that a human was able to do such an appalling act. I sat by Jilan and held her for a long time. Hjolok wisely did not show himself just yet. I learned much about Jilan. She was nineteen. Her father had been killed in the raid while she and her mother were stolen away. Her sister was found a few hours later and picked up as well. I remembered my own plight. I remembered how the soldiers had broken into our house and dragged us all out into the street. The bodies of our friends were strewn everywhere. I had seen my best friend pulled into the town square and stabbed to death. His gargling screams still haunted me. I nodded every now and then as Jilan relayed her story. I was near tears as she finished. I could say nothing. I heard Hjolok stirring in the other room and called out to him. He entered the room slowly. Jilan took a look at him and shrugged. I was relieved. I told Hjolok to heal her graver wounds which he did quickly. I told Jilan I would see her in the morning and I left the room.
Hjolok turned to me. "What are we going to do Shareg? It's dangerous enough with just us two but with her, we'll be hard pressed to hide our opposition." He said gravely. I said nothing as I sat down to think. I knew he was right. If we weren't careful Hultaine could find out that we were his enemies. Hjolok sighed and announced he was going to sleep. He spread out a blanket and lay down. Soon his snores were flowing like a cat's purr.
Jilan grew back her strength exceedingly quickly. A few days later she was up and about. I bought her a set of clothes so she wouldn't be embarrassed in public. I bought myself a new set of ranger's clothes to replace my old peasant's attire. Hjolok kept his raggedy old robes. I passed many hours learning various spells and testing. I was not proficient but I could use minor spells in combat at need. Then something happened that changed my life. Hjolok announced that he was going to compete in a Wizard's Tournament. The winner would get promoted into the Royal Wizarding Group.
Hjolok practiced many of his weaker spells for days and days preceding the Tournament. The arena was going to be the large Pavilion. I could see many more long robed men entering the city over the next few days. I booked Jilan and my seats for the front row. I paid a heavy price for them. The day of the Tournament dawned with a red sun. Jilan and I said goodbye to Hjolok and went to our seats. The Pavilion had no targets on it as I had expected it to. For the next few hours the people poured in. Vendors weaved in between the seats advertising food and assorted drinks. Jilan got a fried lizard and a drink called Frigol. She claims it was liquefied honeydew. I stayed safe and got some venison and mead. The Tournament began when Hultaine took his seat at the head box. I saw Hjolok lined up with a large number of other wizards. An announcer magically magnified his voice to catch our attention. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he called, "Our first two competitors shall be……Ashtinoth Triok and Jogheart Anklad" The two wizards broke away from the group and paced off. When they were fifty paces away they turned to face each other. The announcer began a count down from three. "Three……… Two……… One……… GO!" The two wizards went rigid. Jogheart fired a ball of electricity at Ashtinoth.Ashtinoth brought a wall of fire up and blocked the bolt. He used fire to wrap up the electricity and threw it at Jogheart. Jogheart ducked and sent a mist of ice atAshtinoth who blocked with water and sent a shard of ice at Jogheart. Jogheart tried to dodge but was too slow. The shard caught him full in the chest. He fell to the ground. Then Ashtinoth's insane magic continued to pick the shard up and stab it into Joghart's dead body. After a few of these he threw the shard aside and walked back to the group. The whole fight lasted no more than a minute. Many of these went by. Hjolok won his first two fights. But in the third his opponent got the best of him. His opponent spared his life however. Finally the time came for all of the remaining wizards to fight in one big battle. The wizards were all against each other. The announcer seemed ecstatic.
The announcer yelled 'Go' and they were off. There was a conglomeration of blasts, yells, and thuds. There were twenty wizards in total.Ashtinoth was one. Hjolok was fighting hard. One wizard came after him and got a fire ball down his throat. The man ran around in pain for a few minutes then died.Ashtinoth was doing equally well. He turned to face Hjolok and the battle truly began. Hjolok fired off a lightning ball only to have it thrown back into his face. He fell backwards. I gasped in shock. He leaned up onto his elbows.Ashtinoth was advancing. I suddenly felt strange. I leapt down from my stand and ran to Hjolok. He looked at me with alarm. "You cannot be here!" he growled. I ignored him. I turned to Ashtinoth. The wizard began whirling his hands in a circle in front of him. A disk of glowing blue fire filled it. His eyes filled with a flame of hatred. I suddenly felt enormous power welling inside me. I stood up and faced my opponent. I could hear shocked gasps from the spectators. I staredAshtinoth down, daring him to attack me. He did. The disk of fire flew through the air at me. I raised my hand and growled. The disk stopped in midair and fell the ground. It sputtered for a few seconds then died.Ashtinoth looked at the burnt ground, then to me. His face was shocked. He pulled three disks from the air and threw these at me. I deflected these as easily as the first.Ashtinoth whirled and threw a whirling cloud of flames at me. I simply flicked a finger and it dissipated.Ashtinoth snarled at me. "I've been easy on you boy! No more!" he yelled as he raised his hand. I saw a shard of ice whizzing at me. I conjured a shield of molten fire. It melted the icicle but didn't burn me. I smirked atAshtinoth whose jaw had dropped. He growled loudly and sent a blade of air at me. I had no time to think. A solid wall of metal encased me until the air ceased.Ashtinoth was utterly bewildered. "Th-that- that's impossible! No wizard so young has so much power and control!" he gasped. I could not explain it. Suddenly Hiklin used a psychic attack. I doubled over.Ashtinoth was tearing at my mind. It felt like he was sending a fire hot knife into my brain. He grabbed my memories and began trying to destroy them. I replied with a sharp jab at his consciousness. I attacked him repeatedly but to no avail. His mind was too strong. I could not fight him. I had just decided to give up and die. Suddenly a ferocity that scared me awoke. It was like a deep primeval instinct. I felt myself rise to one knee. I hadn't been aware that I had fallen down. My fiery shield lay on the ground beside me. I grabbed it. I began pushing harder at Ashtinoth's mind. I felt him give way slightly. He continued to claw at my mind. I gave another push. He laughed at my attempt. Anger welled inside of me. A spear of consciousness took form. With a yell I thrust it into Ashtinoth's invading mind. I felt and heard it penetrate deep into his mind. A sound like splitting flesh reached me. Ashtinoth's mind retreated with inhuman speed. I opened my eyes and looked up. Ashtinoth was on his knees holding his head and screaming. The spear was still in his mind. After a minute he was able to pull it out. He looked up at me. His eyes were filled with unnatural hatred. He rose to his feet. I held my shield at ready. He wasn't going to let this go. He roared and hurled an orb of consciousness at me. I gasped as it hit me. A sudden flash of light filled the Pavilion. I yelled in pain.Ashtinoth had a triumphant grin on his face. Once again the anger enveloped me. I screamed in anger. The power that lived in me pushed for escape. It burst forth from me in an icy beam. The beam flew at Ashtinoth. Needless to say, his grin was gone. The beam struck him and he was lost to the light that blasted the sky.
The dust took nearly ten minutes to clear off. When it did I looked over towards Ashtinoth, or… what was left of him: A piece of charred ground with a burnt arm in the center of it. I sighed with relief. Then I turned to Hjolok. He was standing up and smiling at me. I shrugged and turned to walk off. I groaned as I saw a group of guards striding towards me. I just stopped walking. The leader drew his sword but seemed slightly afraid. "We have orders from King Hultaine to bring you at once to the palace." He stammered. I was too exhausted to care.
The walk to the palace was long and slow. I felt my legs growing weaker at each step. When I finally entered the throne room, I saw Hultaine sitting on his throne. I knew my fate was sealed. I could not read Hultaine's expression as I bowed before him. He stared at me from his throne and told me to rise. He got up and walked over to his wash basin. I couldn't understand why he bothered to use it. He was incredibly ugly. His ram horns were caked in blood and dirt. His face was like a goat's. His legs resembled that of a demon; goat-like and covered with fur, ending in three sharp toes. These thoughts flashed through my mind in a blink. I was only a small amount afraid. Hultaine washed his face and turned back to me. "You interfered with the Wizard's Tournament. That which we hold sacred." He said softly. I nodded in noncommitance. It was no use defending myself, Hultaine had seen everything. He snapped his fingers and a servant appeared carrying a tray with a covered bowl on it. He set it down on a table and bowed. Then he hurried from the room. Hultaine strode over and whipped the cover from the bowl. I nearly gasped as I saw what was in it: Sporcions; A deadly cross between spiders and scorpions. I knew that a sting from one of them could prove fatal to me in my weakened state. They looked like giant tarantulas with long pinchers and a stinging tail. Around ten of them filled the glass container. Hultaine put his hand in the bowl and drew out one of the writhing creatures by its tail. He held it up in the air and studied it. "This sporcion is a lot like you Shareg. Both of you are extremely deadly in your own way. But just as this sporcion is powerless in my hands……… you will be like it in the hands of something greater than even myself." He lifted the sporcion in the air and dropped it into his throat. I cringed as I heard the crunching of the hard exoskeleton as Hultaine chewed. Hultaine swallowed and looked at me. "I know you are young but you show more potential power than even I. You single handedly killed Ashtinoth; a feat even Hjolok, my most powerful magician, couldn't accomplish." He smiled at me, "I hereby promote you to the rank of Ghijot; my own personal sorcerer." I jerked my head up in shock. I had thought Hultaine would kill me and now he was offering me a position of power! I couldn't fathom my fortune. I staggered out of the palace in a daze. I wandered around the city for hours searching for Hjolok. I found him at the house with a bandage on his right arm. When he saw me he smiled. "Well?" he said expectantly. I could only stare at him. He looked at me quizzically. I finally squeezed my voice out. "Hultaine……… He made me Ghijot!" I stammered. Hjolok didn't move a muscle. He only looked sad. "Well it was to be expected." He said quietly, "Hultaine wants you in his control. He doesn't want you to have a chance to become stronger than him. You only have potential at this stage." My head was spinning. "But I don't want to be Ghijot!" I protested. "That doesn't matter. Hultaine wants you to be and he'll get his way. He always does." I was scared. "But Hjolok!" I said frantically, "How will I support the Freedom Fighters if I'm in Hultaine's control?" Hjolok just smiled grimly. "Sometimes we must sacrifice what we want for the better good of the people you are protecting. I can give the Fighters word of your position but you must cope on your own. I can offer no more help than that."
Hultaine's palace was huge, as were my quarters. I had a large bed and a wash basin. I had the servants furnish the room with more lavish furniture such as a couch and a big comfortable chair. I felt miserable for not being able to tell Jilan goodbye.
I sighed and went to the window to look out at the wide expanse of Yinot. I could see the small figures of people moving in the streets a good way below. My room was in the south tower at the very top. I looked over in the direction of Hjolok's house but a larger building obscured my view. I turned and walked down the long staircase to the weapons room. I knew the guards would leave me alone out of fear. The staircase was long but I used magic to drift down most of the way. It was strange, I had never used magic before I came to Yinot but suddenly I could think about what I wanted to do and magic would do it. The weapons "room" was actually a whole wing of the castle. I walked in and saw a large burly man sharpening a sword. I figured him to be the weapons master so I strode over to him. He stopped his work when he saw me. "Well now." He said in a voice that sounded like that of a man who had seen too many deaths, "What can I do for you Ghijot?" I was surprised at being called a title instead of my name. "Please call me Shareg." I said quickly. The man nodded. "And please call me Thoro. I am the weapons master of Yinot." He answered with a bow. I bowed to him likewise. He rubbed his hands together like a hungry man. "Now what can I do for you?" he asked again. I drew my sword and handed it to him. "I want to know how good this blade is." Thoro studied the blade with an experienced eye. He ran his finger over it several times. Then he took a piece of wood from the floor and chopped at it. The blade bounced off, leaving no more than a small dent in the wood. Thoro shook his head. "Well Shareg, I'll not lie to you, this is the most poorly forged sword I've ever seen in my life." I nodded, unsurprised. I had fought with it in the forest and the village but it didn't serve me very well. "Now I have some excellent blades in the back room." He said. I nodded again and followed him to the back. He opened the door and lit a torch. The light glinted off of the many blades. I stood in awe of the many swords. But these seemed to interest Thoro little. He walked over to the far wall and tapped a certain brick. I yelped in surprise as a section of the wall opened up and split away to reveal a small cache. I saw a ruby gleam. Thoro pulled out three swords and a long case. These he laid on a table and turned to me. He grabbed a long sword with a yellow blade. He handed it to me. I instantly knew that this wasn't the sword I needed. It was too light. I was used to heavier weapons. I handed it back to Thoro. We went through the other two swords and the case, which had a mace. The swords were too light and the mace off balance. Thoro sighed and looked defeated. Then suddenly he perked up and went back to the hole. He reached far in and pulled out two big chests. I was in wonder. He set these down and turned to me. He opened the chests and I gasped. In one was a large ruby-lined hammer with a four foot handle. In the other was a diamond-headed pickaxe. Its handle was four and a half feet. I picked these up, hammer in my right hand, pickaxe in my left, and tested the weight. It was perfect. I was ecstatic. Thoro could tell I was pleased. I carried them out of the small room and took a few practice swings. They moved beautifully through the air. I thanked Thoro and left the weapons wing.
Hultaine was surprised at my choice of weapons but he allowed me to keep them. I walked out to the training courtyard to test them thoroughly. At one end of the courtyard was the death tester where conquered enemies were forced to fight against Hultaine's men. The men were given a shield and a dagger. It was to this section that I strode. The cage keeper appeared as I walked up. "Hello Ghijot." He said as he bowed. I bowed to him as well. I figured it would be no use to tell every single person in the palace to call me Shareg. "How may I assist you?" he asked. I looked into the cages at the captured foes. I felt sorry for them. I saw a particularly big man. He was a black. I pointed to him. "Arm him. I want to spar against the strongest you have." I said as I stepped into the arena. The cage keeper unlocked the cage and the black emerged. The keeper tossed him a shield and a sword which, in the black's hand, was a mere dagger. He then stepped likewise into the arena. He was a good head taller than me and about a hundred pounds heavier, but, like Hultaine, he had no fat on him. I knew I would be hard pressed to defeat him. The keeper sounded the starter gong. The black came at me in a flurry of slashes and stabs. I was startled at this man's ability to move his bulky build. He was as agile as a cat. I guessed that a magician had been used to capture him. He was actually a handsome person. His high cheekbones lifted his face in an almost royal look. He swung his sword at my face but I deflected with a swing of my hammer. Then I lost my balance. He took advantage of that and kicked my pickaxe out of my hand. I staggered back and regained my composure. He picked up my pickaxe and hurled it at me. I dodged in the nick of time. The pick embedded itself into the arena wall. I grasped my hammer with both hands. The black rushed at me. I slipped to the side and swing my pickaxe at his sword. He brought his blade up to block. Our weapons collided. My hammer smashed the thin metal. The black stared at the stub he held in his hand. He growled and tossed it away. Using his shield as a weapon he leapt on me. I crashed to the ground and felt the wind rush out of me as the giant landed on me. He raised his shield and began battering my face. I covered my head with my arms but it did little to stop the horribly painful barrage. Suddenly I raised my hand and blasted him back with a beam of magic. Then I grabbed my hammer and leapt on top of him. I raised my hammer above my head. But I stopped. This man was a great warrior and I had resorted to trickery to defeat him. He was beaten. That was enough. There was no need to kill him. I stared into his deep brown eyes. He looked like he was reserved to his fate. I rose off of him and extended my hand to help him up. A look of shock spread across his face as he stared at my offering hand. He grasped my hand and stood. I smiled at him. I knew I would be sore for a week or so. My face was bloody but I fixed that quickly. I bowed to the man and left the arena.
I decided to visit Hjolok and Jilan after the duel so I turned in the direction of the house. The sun was high in the sky as I knocked on the door. Hjolok answered the door after a few seconds. He smiled and welcomed me in. I sat down at the table across from him as he made tea. "So Shareg." He said casually, "Not even a week into the Ghijot business and you're already coming back for lessons?" I chuckled. "No Hjolok. I came back so that Jilan could say goodbye to me. I have heard that I am needed in Kiltar. The Freedom Fighters are pressing the advantage and driving back Hultaine's troops." Hjolok looked shocked. "So you have come to say that you turn against all that you stand for? I thought you hated Hultaine." He said quietly. I felt trapped. I couldn't protest against Hultaine but I also couldn't kill Freedom Fighters. I had taken the lives of the men I now served with in Hultaine's court. I was helpless. I got up from the table and strode to the door. I opened the door and was about to step out of it when an arrow whizzed past my ear. It hit the opposite wall and stuck there, quivering like a mouse. I hurled myself back against the wall to the right of the door and summoned my weapons. "The traitors are inside!" I heard a familiar voice cry. I raised my hammer and faced the door. The first man who came through fell to my stroke. Hjolok had jumped behind the table and was muttering spells. I heard flames erupt from outside and the screams of dying men. I peeked out of the window and saw who the voice belonged to: Tinox! He was wrapped in a cloak but his mail glinted in the sunlight. He raised his hand and walked forward a few steps. The men became silent. "Shareg!" he called, "Come out and you shall be spared. Only Hjolok will be killed. I cannot promise a swift execution for him but I can promise you'll live!" I growled in anger and strode out to the street. My weapons gleamed bright in my hands. "These terms I reject!" I yelled, "Only by death will you ever take me!" Tinox looked eager. "Well then", he answered, pulling out his axe, "I shall grant your request!"
Tinox charged at me, axe swinging wildly. I knew how hard this fight would be. I looked back at Tinox's men and saw the black I had fought. He looked angry to be forced to fight against me again. Tinox swung a stroke at my head but was deflected by my pickaxe. He whirled the opposite way but was blocked again. I felt the impacts and knew that I couldn't hold out for long. I danced back and tried to dodge the barrage of axe blade that flew at me. I was tiring slower than before but with his troll blood, Tinox was several times stronger than me. I also knew that I could only win this fight by magic. I backed away as Tinox stopped to catch his breath. His armor was weighing him down. He stripped it off to reveal that he had a troll's body. Only his face was human. I was bewildered. Suddenly he lurched. He gasped and doubled over. I saw his skin splitting to expose scaly hide. His entire body split open to reveal what he had changed into: a mountain troll. I had never faced something like this. It was nearly twice the size of me and a half size bigger than what Tinox had originally been. Its trunk-like legs were as big as Jilan. Its arms nearly reached the ground. It had a face like a fat man and curly horns came from the base of its skull. Its teeth were jagged and yellow. It shook itself and bared its teeth. Then it reached over and grabbed one of its men. The man screamed in horror as the troll studied him. Then it grabbed the man's head and twisted. I heard the sound of breaking bones. The troll grinned at me and I raised my weapons. The troll held onto the man and advanced on me. I realized it was going to use the dead man as a club! I was horrified.The troll strode towards me swinging the man by his legs. I looked around for an opening. The troll laughed. But his laugh was cut short. A yelp of pain took its place. It whirled around to see the black yank his sword out and sprint over to me. "You looked like you needed some help." He grunted. I nodded, "And who else would be more welcome?" The black chuckled. We faced the troll with renewed vigor. The troll looked at us for a few seconds then charged. The black jumped to the side and I raised my pickaxe. Using magic I leapt high into the air. I swing the wider end of the pickaxe at the trolls head as he - 12 -barreled past. I felt it penetrate its skin but bounced off the hard bone. It yowled in pain and threw the dead man at me. I dodged and leapt onto the troll's head. I began battering it with both my hammer and my pickaxe. It screamed and swatted at me but it couldn't get a good hold. I finally swung my pick axe extra hard at its ear. I felt the pick penetrate deep into the troll's head. It yowled and finally grabbed me. It turned me upside down and looked at me. It held me by me legs and began lowering me towards its waiting throat. I grunted and drew my dagger. When I was almost in his jowls I thrust the blade up into his top jaw. Black blood sprayed everywhere. The troll screamed and dropped me to the ground. I conjoured my pickaxe and leapt into the air again. I cried loud as I brought the pick down onto its head. The sharp pick went deep into the creature's brain, killing it instantly. The limp form fell forward with a crash. I slowly drifted to the ground. The black was staring at me as I pulled my pickaxe out of the troll's head.
I grinned at him and turned back to the soldiers still standing. They looked at the dead troll, then to me. Terror filled their eyes. I raised my hammer and roared at them. I laughed as they stumbled back and began to run away. I turned back to the dead to the dead troll. Its glazed eyes stared at me. I grunted as I brought the pick down into its head again. The sound of cracking bone and squelching brains reached me. I pulled my pick out and backed away. I raised my hand and counjoured a huge icicle. This I raised high in the air and released it. It cut through the air and sank into the troll's head, leaving a gaping hole when I pulled it out and tossed it away. I reached down and dug around in the remnants of the troll's brain. "What are you doing?" the black asked in a disgusted voice. "Trolls have a very rare element in their consciousness. If you can find it will bring you luck and money. I have seen it only once, when a warrior from the Freedom Fighters passed through my village. He had killed sixteen trolls and only found about an ounce of the element." I answered as I dug around in the gooey black brain juice. I thought I felt something touch my fingers. I dug eagerly deeper. I felt a round object, like a stone, come into my grasp. I lifted it out and examined it. It was the element! I had about ten ounces of it! The black stirred. I looked up at him and smiled. "This is it!" I said. The black just had a disgusted look on his face. I stood up straight and walked over to a trough where horses were tethered normally and washed the stone off. It glistened in the light. I turned back to the black. I placed the stone in my pocket. "What is your name?" I asked as I strapped my hammer and pickaxe to my back. The black looked down at the dead troll, trying to decide if I was to be trusted. After a moment he looked back at me. "Bastius." He grunted. I nodded. I looked back at the house and saw Hjolok standing in the doorway with Jilan. The old man was smiling as he walked towards me. I reached out my hand and shook his. I smiled at Jilan who was looking frightened. I introduced Bastius. Hjolok and Jilan smiled and shook his hand. I waited patiently until they were done. "We have to leave the city." I stated. Hjolok smiled grimly. "And where will we go Shareg?" he asked. I thought about this for a moment. "The Freedom Fighters are always willing to take in new troops. We can go to them." I looked over my shoulder as I heard the shouts of men in the streets behind us. I knew that Hultaine would send more troops than I could hold off with magic. I turned back to our group with a grave look. Hjolok read my mind and nodded. The black did as well. "Go Hjolok." I said, turning and drawing my weapons, "I'll hold them off until you can get out. I'll follow you soon." I heard Jilan gasp. I didn't turn to comfort her. I knew I needed nerves of steel to do this task. I waited patiently. I barely acknowledged the sound of my three friends scurrying off. The sound of marching feet filled the street. Suddenly from around the corner of a house the troops came. I was shocked. Nearly all of the palace's guards were there along with about a hundred of the king's army. I could see their eyes gleaming beneath their visors. I had one advantage against all of this; the sun was behind me, sinking into the sea of trees that surrounded the city. The soldiers had to use their visors to see me. This was a disadvantage to them as it inhibited their sight range. The leader strode forward and drew his sword. He stared at me from under his visor. I could feel the malice coming from him from nearly a hundred yards away. His eyes were red in the twilight. I waited for him to move first. He did. He yelled out his order. The soldiers were shieldless and charged forward. I raised my weapons to the ready. The diamond head of my pickaxe shone brightly. My hammer's ruby lined head gleamed in the dying light. The soldiers closed the distance. Thirty yards…… Twenty…….. Ten…… Then I swung. My hammer bashed in the head of one soldier, sending him sprawling. The pick landed in another's chest. I ripped it out and blood splattered over my front but I ignored it. I whirled around and smashed a man in the breastplate hearing his ribs splinter. The men's armor prevented the hammer from drawing blood but the sounds were equally as violent. One man tried to hit me with a cudgel and got the pickaxe in his shoulder. He fell backwards screaming and crying in pain. I brought the pick around into another man's eye holes. The sound of splitting bone was gut-wrenching. I lost all feeling and thought as I battled on. I was unaware of who and what I was killing. I only knew I must destroy all of my enemies. Suddenly I felt a new power enter my range of knowing. A being of terrible power. It was so sudden I couldn't react. I only felt a sense of horror overtake me. I came back to my mind and looked up at the tower of the palace. A ghostly green light was coming from the window. I saw that all of the soldiers were dead. The dark robed shape of a man became visible in the window hole. His robes were extremely familiar…… It was then that I realized what had taken place and terror took me, a mind-numbing destructive terror: Hultaine had resurrected Ashtinoth!




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