The Gods of Dragons (Vol 1)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Behind Blue Eyes - The Who, 1971

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Behind Blue Eyes

Submitted: May 10, 2018

Reads: 313

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Submitted: May 10, 2018

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Aujir 35, 1096

Breath...

The birds of early spring were chirping noisily at each other. The old man acknowledged them, then let them go.

Breath...

Children were chattering as they were released from lessons for the afternoon. The monk inhaled the sound and exhaled it again.

Breath...

"There he is!" Veon-Zih opened a single eye to see three young boys, just shy of maturity, run past. The smallest of the three was pointing to a fourth boy, younger, his black hair the color of jet and cut short.

"You'll get it this time tough guy!" they shouted, and the dark haired boy and Master Veon-Zih frowned almost in unison.

Sighing the boy tried to walk past the three, only looking up when they blocked his path. "I don't want to fight you Nedar." Veon-Zih arched an eyebrow, still only watching with one eye. This young one looked more resigned then scared and honestly exasperated. Was this bullying regular? He wouldn't have believed it of the priests of Pelor to allow such behavior from their charges.

Both eyes opened when the three older boys formed a triangle around the younger. He was still looking at the largest, who had crossed his arms and scoffed when the younger had voiced his desire for peace. "You really think you're tough don't you?"

"Not really." the black haired boy shrugged. But the biggest, Nedar, struck out, pushing him back into the arms of the other two who immediately shoved him forward again. It seemed the maneuver had been rehearsed and Veon-Zih jumped to his feet only to stop a moment later. The younger boy's eyes went wide as he fell back, but they narrowed again when he found himself going forward towards Nedars fist. He dipped his right shoulder, lifting his left hand to pull the larger boys punch farther forward then was obviously intended. Trying to regain his lost balance Nedar stepped forward or would have if the younger hadn't placed his leg in the way. Instead, he found himself in the arms of his conspirators as little black hair spun around to keep his front to them, hands up in a primitive boxing stance.

The older boys cursed as they struggled to untangle themselves from each other and face the little black hair. Veon-Zih was almost impressed enough that he considered standing by to see what would happen next, almost. He cleared his throat loudly to make his presence known and smirked as four sets of eyes swiveled his way. The older boys cursed again and made a break for it, running around the nearest corner their shoes sliding as they went. Apparently, the monk was right to think it wasn't the first time they would be in trouble for ganging up on the young one. As for the young one in question, rather than run, he put his hands down and turned fully to face the monk giving Veon-Zih a good look at the boys face. He was young, around ten or eleven if he could be any judge of such things, with pale skin and the most shocking light blue eyes he had ever seen.

The old monk couldn't tell if the icy blue shade was as intense as it initially seemed, or if it was a result of the contrast with his dark hair. Either way, they seemed to pierce his soul after they had scanned his peasants' garb and made their way unblinking back to his own brown orbs.

"Thank you." he said, his young voice clear but quite.

Veon-Zih waited for more, but the boy didn’t say anything else and eventually stopped his study of the monk and looked in the way the bullies had run, “have they been trying things like that for long?” Veon-Zih prompted.

The young boy shrugged, “for a month or so,” he shrugged again, “they’ll get tired of it eventually, or that’s what father Branston says,” he looked back to Veon-Zih and finished with, “or they’ll win and it will be over.” It didn't sound like he cared either way and Veon-Zih felt the manufactured rivalry would end with this boy. Assuming they ever did manage to win, and considering that presumably untaught maneuver, he wasn't sure that could happen. At least not before one or all of them left the church for their apprenticeships at maturity.

"What's your name boy?" The monk knew the church didn't train their charges in martial combat, they may allow the priests of Kord to hold a tournament or two for their holiday celebrations, but that was the extent of it, meaning that this young kid had some natural talent the monk was very interested in...

"Shon. What's yours?"

"Veon-Zih. I am a monk of the Ryukyu Monastery." Shon cocked his head to the side and scrunched his face in thought.

"Is that some kind of priest?" Shon asked

"Not really," Veon-Zih took a moment to scratch his chin in thought, "Well, not in my case. Some monks are more spiritually inclined than others." he let his hand fall away from his face, "My focus is as a sort of specialized fighter. I train to perfect my art by honing my body and mind into the most powerful weapons they are capable of becoming." Shons eyebrows went up a bit at that causing Veon-Zih to smile slightly. The boy was intrigued. "I specialize in unarmed and unarmored combat."

Shon looked down scrunching his face again, apparently considering his words before looking back up at the master monk. "So you can fight even if you have no weapons, and survive even if you have no armor?"

Veon-Zih nodded, "that is correct." Shon tilted his head again, and Veon-Zih couldn't tell if he was thinking or waiting for more, so he continued, "Would you be interested in such skills? In training at our monastery?" the young boy looked up, his eyes wide and excited, showing his age before he exhaled and his face seemed to droop.

"I can't," he sounded disappointed, "I'm going to the temple of Heironeous to train with the Paladins at maturity."

Veon-Zih was visibly taken aback. Children in the care of the church were apprenticed out at maturity, but their destination wasn't decided until much closer to that age, thirteen, and even then it wasn't set in stone. "If you really want to I'm sure…

"No." Shon interrupted, then blushed at his rudeness, meeting Veon-Zih's eyes again, "I was always going to the Paladins." His surety left no room for argument, and the monk felt a pang of disappointment at the loss of such a promising student, followed by another pang of confusion and sadness that such a young boy would so quickly give up on other options for a future that had been decided.

"But… that's not for another three years…" Shon started to smile. It was a small subtle thing, if Veon-Zih hadn't just seen the child's disappointed expression he may not have noticed the change right away. "Could you teach me before then?" he looked so hopeful and the monk was again shocked by how incredibly blue his eyes were.

"Teach what exactly?"

"How to train." the response was so fast and confident it was clear Shon thought the answer should have been obvious. Veon-Zih was again intrigued.

"I will have to think about it," he carefully watched the boys face with his answer, but it hardly changed.

"Alright. When do you think you will know?" that earlier fleeting look of excitement had returned to stay and Veon-Zih had to stop himself from agreeing right away. Instead, he made a show of considering the question, crossing his arms and stroking his chin again.

"Tomorrow morning, before dawn." he stopped stroking his chin and pointed to the large central tree in the courtyard, "I will meet you there."

Shon's eyes followed his pointing finger to the tree and nodded sharply. "Okay."

"But now you should probably go to lunch before it's gone, or worse, cold." Shon's brow furrowed a little, and he nodded again before turning in the direction of the kitchen and starting off. A boy of few words that one. Veon-Zih's arms were still crossed as he watched the young boy walk away. "Teach you how to train hu?" the monk mumbled under his breath before shaking his head and moving off to find the head priest.

***

"Ah! Master Veon-Zih. You haven't aged a day!" Father Branston greeted his old friend with open arms, catching him in a bear hug before the old monk would have a chance to protest. Not that he would have.

"I would say the same of you old friend but…" Veon-Zih looked down at the large belly between them, "I make it a point not to lie. Except in very special circumstances." Far from being offended the old priest laughed, making the belly in question jiggle.

"It's easy to let yourself go when you don't have to go trekking up and down the countryside keeping up with a monk who seems to forget that he can move significantly faster than his companions." he laughed again as he let go of his friend, moving to have a seat behind his desk with a satisfied sigh. "I hope you're not here to try and talk me into some adventure or other. I've been off the road for twelve years, and I don't plan on getting back on it now."

Veon-Zih rolled his eyes and took his own seat at the desk. The exchange was practically rehearsed, "That's what you say every time I come to visit. I gave up trying to seduce you back to the road eight years ago."

"Good. I'd never accuse you of being an unintelligent man." Father Branston reached for the pot of tea he kept on his desk, setting out two small cups and pouring as he spoke. "That isn't to say I wouldn't love to hear stories of your continued adventures…" he passed the monk a cup with an expectant look.

"I have a few…" Veon-Zih let his voice trail off as he took a sip of the tea, "but first, I would like a story from you."

Father Branston lifted both of his eyebrows at that, taking a sip of his own tea. "Really? And what story do you expect to hear from an old priest of a quiet church?"

"Well, I ran into a rather interesting young boy a little while ago. Around ten years old, and the bluest eyes you've ever seen,"

"Shon," Father Branston said right away. "He is an interesting one. Natural fighter, and quite the artist."

Considering how many charges the church cared for he must be an exceptional child for the head priest to know instantly who he meant, and by name. "I saw evidence of his combat skills. Some older boys decided to gang up on him." Father Branston looked up sharply at that and Veon-Zih smiled to reassure him. "They didn't get very far. He had them unbalanced in a single move."

The head priest nodded, "They have been determined to beat him ever since he won the tournament the Kord priests conducted for the children." he set his cup down and tapped the finger of one hand on his desk as he spoke, "it started out nice enough, they would challenge him to a rematch with a judge and everything. He always accepted and always won. Shon isn't a one to gloat, but he also refuses to throw a fight, even when the boys started to get desperate enough to try surprise attacks after meals and before bed."

"That is quite interesting," he took another sip of tea, "but what really surprised me was his insistence that he was going to join the paladins of Heironeous when he reached maturity…" Veon-Zih watched his friend's face and was surprised again when the old priest nodded and picked up his tea before answering the obvious question showing on the monk's face.

"Yes. like I said, he is an interesting one. He was actually dropped off at the temple of Heironeous and not here." Veon-Zih was visually shocked by that, blinking in confusion and disbelief. The temple of Heironeous were good people, if a bit militant, but they didn't care for children. Father Branston nodded in agreement with Veon-Zih's surprise, "yes, newborn and in the dead of winter. They brought him here, but we both decided it would be best if he returned to them at maturity."

"You think there is a reason he was left with the followers of Heironeous rather than Pelor?"

"Everyone who lives in this city knows the church of Pelor takes charge of the orphans of the region until they are old enough to apprentice. It's not as if our buildings are easily mistaken." The monk smirked at that, the temple of Heironeous was built as a military fortress, and often doubled as such. There was no way its towering parapets of smoothly chiseled stone could be mistaken for the welcoming face offered by the church of Pelor.

"I can see your reasoning," Veon-Zih took a long moment to sip his tea and contemplate the situation and his words. It still seemed a bit much that a boy of his age should already be set on a destination that may not be the best possible fit, but at the same time, the boy in question seemed as accepting as the adults who made the decision.

The silence stretched between them, and Veon-Zih finished his tea before he spoke again, "He asked if I would teach him before he went to train with the paladins. I would like to say yes… but only with your permission."

"I don't see why not." Father Branston finished his own tea in one final swig, "Perhaps after he has spent some time with the Paladins Rasnih will decide it wasn't fate after all and Shon will choose to join you." the cleric smiled with a little twinkle in his eye, “does this mean I will be seeing you more than twice a year?”

"Perhaps," the monk returned his old friends smile and set his cup back on the desk for a refill. "Maybe I will come for solstices as well as the equinoxes."

Father Branston laughed and reached for the teapot again, his belly shaking with the mirth and movement, “but until then…” he poured the monk a new cup before refiling his own, “you owe me a few stories.”

***

The stars had just begun to fade as Veon-Zih made his way to the courtyard to meet with the young boy Shon. It was still a while before dawn, and the monk had every intention of meditating on his plans for training this particularly interesting boy before seeing him again. However, it seemed the boy in question had a similar idea in mind.

As the old monk rounded the large tree he stopped short at the sight of the young boy sitting amongst the roots, arms crossed and head slowly lauling down as he dozed off in the early morning darkness. Veon-Zih allowed his foot to drag along some fallen leaves and Shon's head shot up with a start. Apparently, he hadn't meant to doze as he waited. He was just a young boy after all.

"Dawn is still a ways off. Did you stay here all night?" the old monk asked, resting one hand on the tree and beginning to reach the other out to help the boy up.

Shon scrambled to his feet without taking the hand and quickly dusted himself off before looking up. "No sir," he looked away nervously, "I didn't know exactly how much before dawn so I came early…" his eyes snapped back to the old man as though he had just realized he had looked away, "have you decided if you want to teach me?" It was obvious the boy was trying to contain his excitement, he was pretty good at it considering his age, but the way he leaned slightly forward and how his eyes had widened just a bit gave him away.

Master Veon-Zih put on his serious face and waited for a moment, judging the boy's reaction at his pause. Shon merely waited, blinking up at him for the answer he was sure would be coming. He had impressive patience for a ten-year-old. Finally, the monk nodded "Yes, I have decided I will train you. But only so long as you are an obedient and willing student, you have not apprenticed to me officially." Shon nodded sharply, his brow furrowed and his small fists clenched in determination.

The monk stepped away from the tree and motioned for the boy to follow, "Good. Now, you may address me as Master Veon-Zih. We will start with the basic stances and strikes; if you can master them then we will move on to full forms." he scanned the boy from black head to small booted toe and began to slowly circle him as he spoke.

"First the stances. The first will be the horse stance, your feet need to be shoulder width and a half apart, and bend your knees like you are sitting astride a horse. Like this." Master Veon-Zih squatted down into the stance in question as he circled back to the boys front again. Shon tried to mimic the master, squatting down arms bent and fists clenched at his waist.

"Lower… Lower…" the monk moved closer and gently kicked the inside of Shon’s legs forcing them wider. "Good. Now point your toes forward." Shon looked down at his feet as he adjusted them accordingly. "Good, now turn your hands so your knuckles are down and your fingers are up." Veon-Zih reached out to adjust the boy's hands but stopped suddenly when he flinched away.

"Sorry." Shon stuttered as he exhaled and visibly tried to relax, adjusting his hands in the process.

Veon-Zih squinted down at the young boy. He didn't seem like the flinchy type, but he had definitely moved away from the monk's touch. "It's alright…" the Master stepped back and again took his own stance, watching Shon closely. "This will be your primary stance for many of the strikes I will show you today. Your legs will get tired so check your stance regularly and fix it when necessary."

The master monk then began to show him some of the strikes he would be doing in this position, naming each and watching as Shon followed his movement. However, when he touched the boy's hand to adjust his fist, Shon flinched again. It wasn't as sudden as the first, and this time Veon-Zih didn't stop or pull away. "You don't like being touched do you…"

Shon shook his head, but didn't move away, "I'm sorry."

"No need to apologize," the monk finished adjusting the boys punch, turning his fist slightly to a three-quarter angle, "your hands are cold, are you sure you haven't been out here too long?"

Shon shook his head again, "No Master Veon-Zih, my hands are just always cold, everyone says so." The monk arched an eyebrow at that. The boy's hands weren't just a little cold, they were like ice, significantly cooler than the balmy spring air could explain. As he held Shon's fist a little longer it felt as though the cold was pulling the heat away from his skin but without warming the boy's hands in return. It was disconcerting, and it wouldn't surprise Veon-Zih if it was usually the ones reaching out to Shon that flinched away rather than the other way around.

"Are you uncomfortable? Do you feel cold?" again the boy shook his head, and Veon-Zih watched his blue eyes, eyes like ice, for any sign of nervousness or discomfort as he continued to hold the boy's fist. He saw none. Either Shon had gotten used to it, or he had enough control not to show the discomfort, either way, Veon-Zih let go of his hand to continue the lesson.

They went through four more stances and five kicks. Shon twitched a little each time the monk reached out and adjusted him, but Master Veon-Zih ignored it, continuing as if nothing was amiss.

"You will do one-hundred punches and kicks every day. You may decide when you do them and in what order so long as they get done. I will know if you don't practice." Shon nodded, his eyes narrowed in determination, "I am leaving tomorrow evening, tomorrow morning we will go through the techniques again to make sure you have them correct while I am gone." The boy looked up, clearly concerned.

"When will you be back?" he asked, his eyes darting around the monk's face as he waited for the answer.

"Around the summer solstice, I think. It doesn't really matter, I will know if you have practiced every day or not." he watched as the boy's eyes dropped in disappointment before they shot back up again.

"I will not disobey Master Veon-Zih, I will practice every day. one-hundred punches and one-hundred kicks." he sounded earnest, and Veon-Zih's mouth quirked up in a half smile.

"See to it that you do." he said before turning away, "but now it's time for breakfast, the sun has already come up, and we didn't even notice." Shon nodded and began to head towards the dining area when the monk called him back.

"One last thing Shon." the boy turned back cocking his head to listen, "In this discipline, it is customary to bow to each other before and after each practice session. Like this." Veon-Zih placed his right hand into his left palm and bowed slightly at the waist. Shon turned fully to face the monk and mirrored the motion with his left fist in his right palm. The old man arched an eyebrow, "you're left-handed?" he asked.

Shon blinked, startled and moved to fix his hands but Veon-Zih waved them down. "It's alright, it's alright," crossing his arms and stroking his chin he said, "it's just something to keep in mind as we move on. If you feel you are significantly stronger in one side than the other." he gestured to Shon's left, "then you should double the exercises with your weaker side," he gestured to Shon's right.

Shon looked down at his hands then back up at Veon-Zih, "Yes Master Veon-Zih." again he placed his left fist in his right palm and bowed to the monk, who returned the gesture with a smile.

"Until next time young Shon." and with that, they went their separate ways to breakfast, Shon with the other children in the care of the church, and Veon-Zih with the priests and Father Branston. He had many more stories from the road to share with the old man after all.


© Copyright 2019 Shawn Cameron. All rights reserved.

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