Reads: 916

Tharen and Aylwin are laying on the ground about one hour before sunrise. The two of them reek of body odor and musty cloaks. Their hair is long, dirty and in desperate need of trimming.


They are quite different since their life changing tragedy two years ago, yesterday. Tharen stands 5’11” weighing about 195 pounds. His long brown hair hasn't been cut or washed by something other than rain in 2 years. As for Aylwin, his body has grown to 6’1” and now weighs 205 pounds. However his face hasn't changed much, he still has the face of a 17 year old boy. His hair is similar to Tharen’s but it is black and more scraggly.


Aylwin wakes and looks to the horizon to figured out of the time of night. There is a slight bit of light which means the sun will rise within the hour. Then suddenly Tharen swiftly sits up, waking up abruptly yelling “Alfred!” followed by brief panting.


“Another nightmare?” Guessed Aylwin.


“I can't seem to get a break from these nightmares.”


“Not even on your birthday?” hinted Aylwin.


“Is it already the first day of spring?”


“Yes, wherever we are the winters are snowless and temperatures are mild. We must be fairly far south in Zenova to have snowless winters.”


“Wow, I'm 19 and I feel no more of a man then I did when I was 18.”


“It's not like you to talk like this, is something wrong?”


“I just needed a moment to wake up. I'm good now,” assured Tharen, whose tone is now positive.


A nearby scream of a lady catches the attention of Aylwin and Tharen.


“Did you hear that?” asked Tharen.


Aylwin draws Mercy and looks at Tharen as if he is waiting to be told what to do.


“You lead. I only have my bow,” commanded Tharen.


There was another scream. Aylwin dashes the direction of the scream and Tharen closely follows. They sprint through the forest for a moment before coming to the end of it. Aylwin and Tharen pause behind the last shrub of the forest that they spent too many nights in.


From there they see a farmhouse in an open field. Around the farmhouse, a series of tilled farm land freshly harvested. Beside the farmhouse stands a group of five men dressed in red with swords yelling at a middle aged lady. Another group of five men dressed in the same fashion as the other five come out of the broken down door of the farmhouse holding a sack.


“No more ehy?” interrogated one of the men. “Search the rest of the house.”


The five men walk back into the farmhouse and the man grabs the lady by her black and grey hair.


“When I ask for eight sacks of grain. I want eight sacks of grain. Not seven!” yelled the man, slapping her across the face.


“Please sir, that's all we have left,” begged the lady, “we need that to sell so we can buy food.”


“That sounds like a you problem,” laughed the man.


“Godfree, look what we found,” said one of the men in the farmhouse


The men walk out of the farmhouse holding two young boys no older than twelve years old, identical in appearance.


“Let me go!” yelled one of the boys, trying to force his way free.


“Grandma! Help!” yelled the other boy.


“Kevi! Levi!” cried the lady reaching her hand to the twins.


“This will show you to not rip off Godfree!” announced Godfree. “Kill the boys!”


“No! Please No!” shrieked the lady.


“Hey!” shouted Tharen.


Godfree and his men see Tharen and Aylwin marching towards them, bows in hand.


“I always said murder is a spectator’s sport,” said Godfree.


The two nearest men to the twins draw their swords and prepare to strike. Tharen shoots an arrow and hits one of the men in the chest, Aylwin hits the other in the throat. Godfree, who underestimated his opponents is impressed by the power and accuracy of the bows and the bowmen.


“There are no skilled bowmen in these parts of Zenova, where are they from I wonder?” Godfree pondered to himself.


Godfree and his remaining seven men draw their swords and face Tharen and Aylwin. The men holding Kevi and Levi, which are at the back of the group, had to use a hand to draw a sword. Levi uses all of his strength which is enough to catch the man holding him off guard, allowing him to pull his hand away.


Levi wasted no time before charging at the man holding Kevi, in an attempt to free his brother. The man smirks at the attempt and swings at Levi. Kevi who isn't as strong as his brother, stabs the man's hand as hard as he could with his fingernails and bites the man's thumb right off.


The man screamed in agony and calls off his swing at Levi who is no longer part of the man's concern. The man redirects the swing at Kevi with vengeance. Kevi spits out the bloody thumb and gets out of the man's grip. Despite not having enough time to escape the man's sword, Kevi doesn't seem worried. Just before the sword makes contact, Levi slide tackles the man’s feet causing the man to both miss Kevi and fall to the ground. Levi and Kevi flee into the house from the evil men in red.


“Boys! Run!” yelled the lady triggering a flashback for Aylwin and Tharen to the last time they saw Alfred.


Godfree drives the lady's face into the dirt with his dirty boot and says “Bowmen like your selves should still be shooting, why do you hesitate to end more lives?” 


“I offer you a fair choice,” warned Tharen confidently. “Let the women go, leave and never come back. Or you fight us, and you will lose your lives.”


“Its eight-” Godfree pauses remembering one of his men is crying on the ground without a thumb. “Seven against two,” corrected Godfree putting more of his weight on the ladys head.


“Take your filthy foot off that lady,” demanded Aylwin aiming his bow at Godfree.


“Tell you what,” decided Godfree pointing his sword down in a way that if he falls, he and his sword will fall on the lady. “Drop the bows, and I'll let her go.”


“How do we know you're not going to just kill her anyways?” questioned Tharen.


“I promise. I may be a liar and a cheat, but even I don't go back on a promise.”


“Tharen. Do you see truth in his eyes?” asked Aylwin.


“He will keep his promise.”


“I hope you’re right.”


Tharen and Aylwin toss their bows aside and Godfree takes his foot of the lady's head.


“Now I'm curious. Why would you throw away your lives for some lady you never met?”


“What makes you think we are?” asked Tharen


“Other than your friends fancy dagger. You now have no way to defend yourselves,” taunted Godfree.


Tharen and Aylwin take off their cloaks for maximum mobility and wait for the red clothed men to come. Godfree and his six followers move towards them. Tharen and Aylwin separate causing Godfree’s men to split in half. Three men charge at each of them while Godfree stands back to watch.


The three running at Tharen are in single file. The leader plunges his sword at Tharens chest. Tharen tilts his body so the sword just misses and he grabs the fist holding the sword with one hand and the elbow with his other hand. Tharen breaks the arm holding the sword then takes the sword for his own. As the man collapses screaming in pain, Tharen thrusts his newly acquired sword into him.


The second man swings his sword to his own left at Tharen’s feet in an attempt to catch him off guard. Tharen lifts right foot and as the sword passes under it he slams his foot down knocking the man's weapon to the ground. Tharen quickly punches the second man in the head knocking him out, and gets ready for the third and final man.


The third man flies at Tharen, sword already cocked back overhead with both hands tightly gripped and ready for a mighty swing. Tharen identifies the man's intention of using brute force to overpower him. There is no doubt in Tharen’s mind that he can match the man strength, he is a Brayssian afterall.


The man lets off a swing with all of his might at Tharen. With both hands gripping the sword, Tharen swings back at the man sword and they collide. The power of their clash could be felt by anyone watching, as the thunderous reverberations of their blades shake the birds away from the forest trees. The man is unable to match Tharen’s powerful swing and his sword is thrown from his hand. Tharen follows through with the swing and cuts through the man.


Now that there are no enemies attacking Tharen, he looks over to Aylwin and sees him dodge two swings and slashing two men dead at their chests, killing them. Aylwin is about to kill the last man but it appears that someone beat him to it. A long blade punctures the man's upper stomach from behind. The man falls and reveals not one but two killers. Kevi and Levi stand behind the fallen man with the look of guilt on their faces. Tharen also notices that Godfree and his thumbless minion is nowhere to be found.


“How did you manage to use that sword. That is a two handed sword that even a grown man can only hold for so long,” wondered Aylwin in amazement.


“Our father told us with his last breath. That me and Levi are three times stronger together than if we weren't,” said Kevi with hatred deep in his eye.


Tharen sensing the pain and hatred in the young boy asks “Your father was killed, wasn't he?”


“Murdered. He did nothing wrong. He was just minding his own business and some thug murdered him. That is why my brother and I are going to avenge him when we are strong enough,” scowled Kevi.


“Was it one of Godfree’s Thugs?” asked Aylwin.


“No. But he is just another Thug. Another Thug that needs to die too,” snapped Kevi.


Tharen rests his hand on Kevi and Levi’s shoulder and says softly almost to himself, “so much hate and anger for such young boys.”


“Hate is good,” insisted Kevi. “Hate makes us strong.”


“If that's what you think, then you are no different than the man who killed your father. Nor are you any different than Godfree,” lectured Tharen.


“How are we anything like them! Those men do horrible things! We did nothing wrong! We are nothing like them!” snapped Levi, rejecting Tharen’s notions.


“I bet they were no different at one point. If your foundation of strength is hate. Then someday you too will do horrible things to undeserving people,” claimed Tharen.


Kevi and Levi sink their heads and say nothing. The older lady comes over and gives the boys a hug.


“Don't you ever try that again, now put your father's sword away,” stressed the lady in a gracious, yet firm tone.


Kevi and Levi together pull the large two handed sword out of the dead man's back and wipe the blood off with their shirts.


Aylwin wonders to himself how it is that these two young boys are acting so unfazed by taking their first life. He remembers the first time he had to kill a man, and quickly tries to distract the thought.


“Can I ask you two strangers something?” proposed the lady.


Aylwin and Tharen wait for the question.


“Why did you help us? You risked your lives for total strangers. People going out of their way to help someone else is a rare sight these past two years.”


“Because it's times like these, when people should help each other the most,” said Tharen.


The lady smiled and invited the two boys into her home. They gratefully accepted and followed her through the front door.


The place was a disaster. Everything that wasn't attached to the house was broken on the floor.


“Where did Godfree go anyways?” inquired the lady.


“He ran away,” replied Tharen.


“Good. I hope he never comes back,” wished the lady.


“Do you mind if I ask for your name mam?” asked Tharen.


The lady smiles and begins to list, “I will tell you my name, let you boys use the well out back to clean yourselves, wash your clothes, feed you, and give you a bed to sleep on. It is the least I can do.”


“We cannot accept such big gift ma’am,” said Aylwin


“My name is Gladria. And I am not giving you a choice in the matter. Go clean yourselves, kevi will show you where the well is. Give me your clothes for me to wash. When you’re done cleaning yourselves there will be food once I pick the table off the ground.”


“Before we clean ourselves we will carry the bodies to the forest. It’s the least we could do for your hospitality,” said Tharen.


“That sounds fine. Kevi and Levi will help you boys with that.”


“Oh no, that’s not necessary,” assured Aylwin. “Two young boys don’t need to do something so-”


“No!” both Kevi and Levi simultaneously blurt. They then look to each other and nod in agreement.


“We want to,” insists Kevi. “We don’t want these men near our home.”


“The more hands you’ve got, the faster they go away,” said Levi.


Tharen thinks about it for a moment. “Fine, then. Do you have a cart or something that we can use?”


“Yes,” replied Gladria, “on the other side of the house. We use it to carry fertilizer. It’s quite large and sturdy, so it should be able to hold all of them. The boys will show you to it.”


The boys bring Tharen and Aylwin around the house to the cart. The cart has two wheels on one side, and two legs on the other, with handles sticking out horizontally from the legged side. The Group takes the cart with to retrieve the eight bodies from the field. After collecting all of them, they haul the cart into the wood, where they dump them.


They take the cart back to the house, where Kevi leads Tharen and Aylwin out the back door to a well. He asks them for their clothes so he could take them to his grandma. Tharen and Aylwin give Kevi their clothes and they wash themselves.


After they are done cleaning themselves Levi brings them their clean clothes. They get dressed and go back into the house where a circle table with five bowls of soup sat. Their bows that were retrieved are leaning against the wall by the door.


“You look much better. Does it feel as good as it looks?” asked Gladria.


“Even better,” joked Aylwin.


“You two are handsome young men when your skin isn't the color of the forests ground. I would introduce you to my granddaughter if she was here, though I doubt you have come all this way to find love. Let us eat and perhaps I will learn more about my guests?” hinted Gladria.


“We can't thank you enough Gladria,” Aylwin said with sincere gratitude.


“I can't thank you enough either. My grandsons would be dead if you boys didn't come when you did. Now eat.”


Everyone sits down at the round table and begins to eat their soup.


“I apologise for the round table,” said Gladria. “I know that in the north tables are long and have four corners at every residence. The host sits at the long end while the her guests sit across from each other on the sides. To sit someone at a round table is spat upon but that is not my intention. Down here a table is a table.”


“No offence taken Gladria. As a matter of fact I prefer the round table. It symbolizes equality and respect to everyone when you think about it. There is no superior spot since they are all the same, the way I would have it if I had my own home,” assured Tharen humbly.


“Hmm, I suppose you're right,” smiled Gladria.


“That was some of the best soup I have ever had,” confessed Tharen after he finished inhaling his soup.

Gladria smiles with pleasure and asks if there is anything else they need before they sleep.


“You have given so much already, so it pains me to ask this,” praised Tharen


“Ask away.”


“Can you tell me how to get to Steelhorn Mountain?”


“Why do northerners desire to go that far south?”


“At first I thought you were assuming we are from the north. But now I see that you discovered something that you haven't given away yet, how did you know we were from the north?”


“Your tattoos on your backs. I have only seen those markings in Northern Zanova when I last traveled there.”


“How far North have you traveled?”


“I never got the name of the place, though I know the path to get there. I remember it perfectly, the gorgeous trees full at the branches of pink blossoms. The calming river so clear that you could see all that lived in it from the surface to the bottom. The grass was short and light green and the flowers covering it were of all colors and shapes. The soothing sound and sight of the small and colorful birds combined with the slow current of the river; It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced, so perfect that I thought it was dream at first. I planned to go again, but now Zanova is too unsafe to travel.”


“It sounds like paradise.”


Gladria’s mind seems to have drifted off to her paradise as she stared blankly at nothing for a moment.


Her mind comes back to reality and she says, “I should also warn you. Northerners aren't very welcome here. You keep that too yourselves out there.”


“Why’s that?” asked Tharen, curiously.


“Because many people down here blame the Northerners for everything that has happened. The orcs and bandits now running around Zanova is somehow faulted at the north. What a shame. The Brayssians protected Zanova for decades and when they face extinction, the south shows no appreciation.”


“That must be why Alfred told us to not tell anyone who we are,” said Tharen to himself.


“That is a shame,” repeated Aylwin looking at Tharen.


“Me and Kevi are going to be strong like Brayssians. And when we are, we will get rid of all of the bad guys here,” announced Levi.


“As long as you use that strength to help people,” smiled Aylwin.


“Like you two?”


“Before we get anymore sidetracked. If it is Steel Horn Mountain you seek, you aren't very far. It is just a few hours west along the road, you can't miss it,” interrupted Gladria.


“A few hours? That's it?”


“Yes. you can head out in the morning.”


“Pardon my haste, but we should really get going. There is easily enough daylight to get there,” said Tharen


“But where will you sleep?”


“We will figure it out, dont worry.”


“Well if you must,” accepted Gladria.


“Thank you for everything Gladria. We are forever in your debt,” thanked Tharen opening the door to leave.


“Stop by at anytime.”


Tharen and Aylwin walk to the front door grab their bows and walk out of the front door. They turn around to see the lady and the twins waving goodbye.


“It will be safe enough for you to revisit that place some day. I will make it so. I promise,” Tharen declared.


“Bold words from an underdog, I will hold you to that, Brayssian,” hinted Gladria with a face full of joy.


“She knew.” grinned Aylwin.


Tharen and Aylwin wave goodbye and continue their journey.









---------END OF CHAPTER----------------------------------------




 Marche: So I would just like to elaborate on what the characters have hinted about the Brayssians. An average Brayssian is known for having heaps of self confidence, while being quite capable in the area of physical abilities and training; and the location of their settlement made them the front line of any conflict. This has given them the reputation of being the strongest fighters of Zanova.

Submitted: January 07, 2017

© Copyright 2023 Dylan Henlisia and Marche Taylor. All rights reserved.


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