The Circle and The Stone

Reads: 1029  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 7 (v.1)

Submitted: January 24, 2012

Reads: 139

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 24, 2012

A A A

A A A

Chapter 7

 

Maggie had disbanded the circle and Thom left the clearing with no animosity from anyone. He thought of what had just transpired and found himself intrigued of his families history but leary of all they told him. He didn’t like folklore but he had to admit he may be, just may be, a piece of it. And then the thought of Chevis came to his mind and he decided he needed a few ales. He found his way to the pub and swung opened the doors as he had on many an occasion. The pub was only half occupied and smoke filled as always as he sauntered up to the bar, found a vacant seat, and grabbed Ansils attention.

“How are ya feeling tonight Thom” He asked with no emotion.

Thom smiled and answered.

“Better than last night, or should I say this morning”

“Just asking” he said. Thom looked at the man and immediately sensed a fear and aprehension in himself. It took him by surpise.

“Ale?” he asked, but Thom said nothing and just continued to stare at him and than he felt his own stomach drop as a sense of dread overcame him. He knew Ansil was suddenly slightly afraid of him.

“Ansil” he began “I’m not going to do anything to you, I like you, and yes an ale please” He felt his heart lighten up but his own mind became confused.

“I didn’t think that Thom” Ansil said as he poured him a mug.

“Yes you did, you really thought I was going to do something to you” Thom said with a slight grin. His own stomach began to drop again and the feeling of dread reappeared. It went away as fast as it came and he suddenly felt nothing but he knew what he had to say next.

“Just fooling with you Ansil, how are you tonight anyway?” he said feighning sincerity.

“I’m just fine” he said “It’s busy enough to keep me happy” Ansil was now sure, especially after last night, that there was something surely wrong the big man. Thom handed a coin across the bar, paying as always for his ale, and looked about the pub. Off to the corner, two men he would occasionaly join, were engaged in casual conversation about nothing, he surmised, and the old man by the river was passed out again in his chair, reeking of urine. The others he recognized as regular patrons, some he could tolerate others he simply couldn’t. But it was no matter tonight. He turned back towards the bar and became lost in thought. The brothers weighed heavy on him, though three days ago he was not even aware of their existence. Three days he thought, what a strange three days but in the back of mind he still had the thought: If this is all a trick…But last nights dream and the previous days visions were real and he knew that if it this a game; the jokes on her because she gave him something, and something that could be used against her. The more he pondered that simple reality the less he thought she was playing games as he sensed Ansils emotions when he walked in and he knew one thing for sure; she wasn’t stupid, this latent ability really could be used against her. No, she was being honest with him, and for the first time, besides the Witches in Rowsom really could have had him at their mercy, and that’s the only thing he could possibly imagine she would go through the trouble of setting him up for. No, She’s real, it’s all real he resigned. It was just this role they think he’s able play that he really wasn’t sure of, so he knew it was the first thing he had to discuss with Chevis when he saw her next. He thought he was laughing to himself at the prospect looking forward to seeing her, but Ansil caught his quiet laugh and saw him shaking his head in amusement at some unknown joke. He looked at near empty ale and spoke.

“Another Thom?” he asked. Thom immediately came out his deep thought only to find Ansil looking strangly at him. 

“What’s that” he said with a chuckle.

“Another?”

“Yeah one more” he said as he composed himself.

He glanced around the pub once again, more from habit than in any real interest, and nothing over the last bit of time had changed. The old man was still asleep and his aquantences were also still chatting away, one noticed him at the bar and silently raised a glass of ale to him, acknowledging his presence. He returned the quiet greeting when the heavy door of the establishment once again opened. Thom looked over his shoulder towards the entrance, again in no real interest but more in habit, as a stranger entered the pub. There were not many unknown faces in or around New Forest, an occasional merchant would drift through the haven now and again, but rarely had Thom ever saw one in here. Usually they had a reason for their visit, and usually it was for him and his skills, as he was one of the hand full of Cobblers in the area. It wasn’t just the sleek black slicker he wore that grabbed his attention, it was the beutifully crafted cross bow that  was strapped across his back he spied, as the stranger came across the room and sat a few empty seats away at the bar. Ansil said nothing, barely acknowledging his presence, yet poured him an ale. He turned his eyes towards the stranger, completely enamored by the weapon, and steathily examined it closer. It was quite a piece of work, not unlike his own in its basic mechanics, but the stock was finely crafted of a blond wood that he had never saw before and the short spread of the bow was of a deep blue metal that almost shone in a suttle brilliance. But the cams at each end of the spread were of a design that again he had never saw before, giving it a dangerous appearance and he immediately surmised; a violent force behind a well placed bolt. The stranger began to lift his ale to his lips but stopped dead half way  through the movement. He felt Thoms eyes.

“Yes” He said as he placed his untouched ale back on the bar and confronted Thom. Thom immediately snapped out of his slight trance and looked into the strangers eyes.

“I have no quarrel with you” he said “ I was only admiring your weapon”

Ansil grew immediately apprehensive at the quick exchange as he preteneded to ignore the both of them while he washed glasses. This could quickly become a problem that even he couldn’t control.

“And I have none with you” the stranger said.

A sense of deep relief swept over Thom, but it wasn’t his relief he felt; it was Ansils. Thom glanced over to the barkeeps back, and grinned inside. Don’t worry Ansil, he thought to himself, if I want I’ll snap the mans neck. He looked back at the stranger and felt no threat.

“That’s a fine bow” He said as he returned to his ale.

“Yes it is” the stranger said as he took his first drink. They sat in silence for a few minutes, each alone in there separate thoughts, when the stranger spoke again.

“Are ya from the haven” he asked as he stared forward.

“Yeah” Thom answered “Where do you come from” He asked. The stranger was good sized man, with long dark hair and intense deep brown eyes and he answered Thom with a voice that commanded authority.

“Another land” he said.

“Really, imagine that” Thom sarcasticly said as he returned to his own ale. Ansils stomach again began to turn over again but this time Thom didn’t sense it. The stranger placed his glass down on the old bar surface and stared at Thom, sizing him up.

“Bar keep” he said “Give this man an ale” he said as Ansil turned towards them. Thom looked over at him and said nothing, the man was no threat to him. The stranger fished out a coin a slid it across the bar and Ansil placed a fresh ale in front of Thom. He rose the ale in acknowlegdment, not out of  thank you, but out of  respect for the strangers common sense in not confronting him.

“What brings you here” Thom asked, now certain for the second time tonight he wouldn’t be damaging someone.

“I’m looking for someone” He answered.

“Well, I’ll give you a word of advice” he said “This is not a haven were strangers come in and look for locals. As I said, I have no quarrell with you, that’s just honest advice”

“I can respect that” he said. “But perhaps you can help me”

Thom looked back at his ale and shrugged his shoulders.

“Go ahead” he simply said

“It’s not a local I’m really looking for, its an animal and its name is Chevis”

Thom wasn’t to sure what shocked him more, the fact he refered to her as an animal or the fact that he might find her and refer to her as an animal.

“It” he said with a laugh “I should tell you where she is and let you say that to her face”

“Oh please do” he said in a dark and quite voice. The hair on Thoms neck began to stand on end as the man stared through him with a violence in his eyes that he never saw in anyone before. His own continence immediately shifted from slight humour to black rage but he maintained for the moment.

“I think you better answer the first question I asked” He calmly and quietly said to the stranger, returning his stare.

Ansil now knew it was time to intervene before the whole situation erupted.

“Thom” he interupted with a warning tone.

“Shut up Ansil” He said not leaving the glaring eyes of the stranger.

“Where are you from” he asked emphasizing each word. The stranger wasn’t about to back down but he had no time for a fight. He was here on a much more important mission than confronting a very large bar local in a washed out old pub. He stared Thom down and looked into him for a few more moments than answered.

“The North” was all he said as he downed his ale and promptly left the establishment.

Thom watched the back of the man dissapear into night and he turned to Ansil.

“Sorry Ansil” He said “But I didn’t start anything”

“No, I have to say you didn’t” he admitted. Ansil was relieved beyond relief that the man of the north was now gone as he had no use for him himself. Thom downed the last of his ale and quickly drank the one the stranger bought him. He slid the empty glasses towards and Ansil and said his goodbye.

“Have to go Ansil, have a good night” He said as he rose of his barstool and also dissapeared through the door. One of Thoms aquantecess left his table where they been quietly spying the whole situation at the bar and went over to Ansil.

“What was that all about” He asked as he aproached.

“I don’t know but the guys looking for Chevis and he doesn’t seem happy with her” he answered.

“Oh Thom must have loved that” He said with a laugh “I’m sure he pointed the way”

“No Drew, that’s the odd part, I thought he was going to kill him”

Thom soberly lumbered home in the dark, looking about for any sign of the man from the north, but he saw none. He wasn’t sure what that exchange meant but he remembered the story of the north that Chevis told him and he knew he had speak with her tommorrow. He eventually found his way to his front door where the beast was quietly waiting for his return as he himself was tired and wanted to sleep by the warm fire he was sure his master would create. He opened the door, let the beast in, and didn’t disapoint. Thom made a light late dinner of rabbit and turned in for the night. He was now truly tired and he looked forward to a deep sober sleep but he wasn’t unconciousess for long when the visions began. He was back at the base of The Great Tree but now he understood he was having a vision and he knew he was really at home asleep and he felt some control of the situation he was currently in. He ran his hand over the bark of the tree and he was surprised at how warm to the touch it was, and he looked up at it and still hard a hard time comprehending the impossible sight. One of the squirels approached him but this time it seemed to acknowledge his presence, it was a very old one, he could tell that much, and it was worried; he could feel that. It stopped close to him and sat on its hind legs silently staring up at him. Thom looked down at it and another flood of emotion swept over him. It was pure fear and deep dread, a fear not for the squirell it’s self but the community as a whole and the dread could only be described as a foreboding. He looked out to the clearing and saw the others, they were all some how together, yet lonely, and all were afraid. Thom turned back to the old squirell and saw his death. He instantly heard the unmistakable sound of crossbow releasing its bolt, and before he had time to react, the bark of the great tree was splattered with the remains of the old one.

The impact of the bolt was frightening as it impaled itself half way up its shaft into the Great Tree at its very base. Thom stood stunned for a moment when he heard the familiar sound again and everything went into slow motion as he turned towards it. He watched the bolt fly towards him, its three pronged tip slowly rotating clockwise, and it held him tranfixed for an endless moment. The speed of the rotation increased yet the velocity at which it was coming for him remained steady, defying the basic physics of an arrows flight. He continued to watch it as approached and he knew he had time to move out of it’s flight path. When he finally did he simply moved his head sideways and watched as it passed by him, now rotating at a phenominal speed as it impacted with the the Great Tree. It also bored deep into the bark and Thom looked past its flight path and saw the one who delivered it. It was the stranger from the North. The stranger looked hard into him and for a second time turned his back to him and dissapeared. He started to feel himself wander in and out of thought as the scene he was in began to waver and the world became translucent. He was coming out of his vision.

Violently awaking once again with a shortness of breath, Thom found himself in his cottage with the beast splayed out on his stomach, scared half to death. The early morning light permeated the space but he felt as though he had slept for only the brief minutes he experienced in the vision. He shifted his heavy legs off the bed and judging by the beasts demeanor he was sure Chevis was near. Rising off the old a bed, he went to the door to this time let her in, but as it swung open,  she was nowhere to be seen. It was however a fine morning, and after last night, it was certainly time for another walk to Rowsom. He got fully dressed as the beast slowly became himself again and Thom surmised the animal must have somehow sensed the vision. He left cottage with the beast in tow, knowing it would never enter Rowsom, and proceeded to find Chevis. He stopped half way out of his yard and turned around and went back inside. In one corner of the room was his own cross bow, leaning quietly against the wall, and he felt he should carry it today. He strapped it across his back and picked a quiver of his most deadly bolts; the razor sharp three prongs he only used  for large animals. However, all animals were safe this morning, except one: The one from the North. He would kill him if need be if he saw him again, but he felt he had to know more first, so he again left home and started towards Rowsom. They walked through the Haven and Thom kept a carefull eye out for the stranger from the North, but as they passed through the other side of town and headed towards Rowsom; he saw not so much of an indication of him. The forest became to again thicken around as he aproached the wide path that was the entrance to Covens territory. The beast again stopped as Thom disaapeared down it. He wasn’t walking for long, just as the previous night, when one of them found him, only this time it was he who startled her at a blind curve. It was Portia again and she was simply enjoying a morning walk, contimplating if she should head to the Haven and search out a merchant for trade or coin, for the  waxes the community was known for. 

“What are you doing here” She asked him as she stopped square in front of his path.

“I need to see Chevis” He said, certainly not wanting a confrontation. She looked up at him, judging his continence and sensing his emotions. She accepted last night that he was who Chevis said he was however, entering Rowsom without an invitation was something she had an issue with. She continued to look into him for a moment sensing a certain aprehension that was not like the one she sensed last night. Something was wrong she knew that much.

“Thom” she began “We don’t normally allow strangers here without an invitation, but I guess your not really a stranger any more and  I know you wouldn’t come here for no reason”

“Thank-you” he said

“Come on, I think she’s still here somewhere” she finished as she turned back towards the direction she came from and escorted Thom to Mother Chevis. They walked in silence for a few minutes when Thom initiated a conversation of sorts.

“You more than the others, really hate me don’t you” he sincerely asked.

“I don’t hate anyone” she said as she turned to him “I don’t know you and I certainly have no respect for your reputation”

“That’s fair enough but as I said last night; I’m honestly not that bad” he said in defense.

“I also sense that, but I’ll judge for myself” she said as she gave him a sideways glance.

She was certainly no sheep in this community, he thought as they continued through the the Rowson woods, on the contrary he began to sense she more of a wolf than all else. She was dressed in a simple off white gown instead of the strange brown-blue one that respresented, he assumed, the Coven members, but her eyes and her complexion shone as bright as they had the previous evening.

“And I will say this” she continued “You have a lot of work to do if you ever want to completely redeem yourself in our eyes”

“I’m not here to redeem to myself to anyone” he said with a certain tersness.

“I know, you’re only here for the Sentients and that’s fine; that’s your position”

“I don’t have a position Portia, and that’s something all of you need to understand” he stated “I have what seems to be job, a strange job that Chevis pointed out to me a few days ago”

“Well Thom, job or position, you have a purpose here” she said.

“I’m becoming aware of that” he muttered.

The familiar thinning of the forest began to take place, as Thom belived they were close to the area where the circle was the previous night, but instead of heading in that general direction they made an abrupt left and followed a smaller path that led into different flora. The trees grew thicker and taller as they passed the way and he immediately knew from all his years in the wild, that this was old growth that had probably survived a fire, hundreds of years ago.

“Where are we going?” he asked her with sincerity.

“Mother Chevis lives with Maggie, our High Priestess that you met last night, in a small cottage by the river.” She answered.

“Hmmm” he pondered “I always did wonder where she actually lived”

“Why are you carrying a weapon today?” she asked as she glanced at the crossbow on his back.

“That’s part of the reason why I need to see Chevis” He answered  “I met a stranger at the pub when I left here and he was looking for her”

She stopped and looked up at him.

“A stranger looking for Mother?” She queried

“Yeah, and he didn’t seem happy with her, not that that surprised me” he said with a slight laugh. “But he was wearing a cross bow and he said he was from the North and for a moment I thought  I was going to have kill him” He finished.

“Thom” she cautiosly asked “describe him”

“Tall, obviously not as tall as me and with dark hair, dressed from head to toe in black leather and he actually reffered to her as it” he said “And he was also in the dream I had last night”

Portia stood stunned at his revelation and she was at a loss for words since she immediately knew what is what he described.

“Who is it?” he asked as he could sense her immediate fear.

“Was the weapon made of white wood?” she asked in a last attempt to deny herself of what she was hearing and  hoping beyond all hope that he would say no.

“Yeah it was” He said to her with a how-did-you-know look. She broke his gaze and momentarily stared off into the forest.

“Portia, who is it?” he reintereated knowing she had the answer.

“A Marksman” she said in stunned disbelief. “Lets go, we need to find her right now”

“That’s sort of the reason why I’m here” he quietly said to himself more than her. They hurried there pace and within minutes Thom could here the tell tale sounds of a small river quietly going about its own business, and he really wished he were that river.

The forest opened into a small clearing in which a stone cottage sat near the edge of the envious river, and Thom had admit that it was a pleasant little area in the middle of Rowsom. The cottage door gently swept open as they approached and Maggie appeared in the threshhold.  

“You people really have no use for door knobs do you” he said as he glanced sideways at her. She returned his look, stonefaced, but said nothing. They approached the cottage door and Portia spoke before Maggie had a chance to say anything.

“Is Mother here Maggie?” she asked. Maggie immediately felt the feeling of dread that Tia was experiencing and she became quite concerned, and not only at the fact that Thom of Meadows was at her doorstep.

“Yes, Tia she is” she said “Whats going on here?” she asked as she turned to Thom.

“I need to talk to Chevis” He said with no real emotion. Maggie didn’t need to summon Chevis as she she sauntered off her chair and joined them at the door.

“Thom whats wrong?” she asked in a monotoned voice as she came into the day.

“I’m not sure Chevis, but I think there’s something you should know” he began, but Portia interrupted.

“There’s a Marksman in New Forest and he asked for you” she bluntly said to her. Chevis looked up at maggie and Maggie returned her look.

“Come in and speak with us Thom” Maggie said and they entered the small house as the door closed behind them.

The home was cozy and clean and Thom felt about as uncomfortable as he possibly could as he was offered a seat at the kitchen table. It felt cramped, though even for a man his size, it wasn’t, and it felt Chevis like; whatever that was he thought. They sat together as the early sun penetrated the interior giving the room a cordial effect that the women enjoyed in there many morning chats. But today was again different as Chevis launched herself on to the white ash table top and sat in silence.

“A Marksman?” Maggie said as she addressed Thom in a slightly confused tone at the prospect of it in this day and age. 

“First I don’t know what a Marksman is” He began as he looked over to Portia.

“When I told you the story of the north there was far to much to tell in one sitting” Chevis said “I wasn’t hiding anything from you”

“I understand, but you better tell me now because I just may have to kill one” he said.

“The Marksman are hunters” she began “they hunt Sentients and only Sentients, they’re an arm of the governorship in the North. Or they were anyway. They haven’t existed in over a hundred years or so we thought. Tell me what happened”

Thom told them of what took place in the pub and he than explained his vision to Chevis.

“…And that’s why I’m carrying my bow today” he finished.

“And you just may need it” Maggie said

“My quarrell with this marksman is mine alone, Maggie, and I know Chevis can take of herself; she doesn’t need me to protect her” he said.

“Again Thom; I don’t but they do” she said “and the brothers are only a day or two away with a Marksman in the area”

Thom sat quiet for a moment taking in the situation.

“I meant to ask you how close they were to us” he finally said. The term ‘us’ didn’t go unnoticed by the witches but they said nothing. They were now  sure what Thom was. He was the last Protector, and he recognized it in a remarkably short time as the instinct they all held, once exposed, was to strong to ingnore. He looked about the table and they could feel it in him, the dark energy of a hunter, a protector and a cold killer of those who harmed the Sentients. Maggie and Portia had never experienced the raw emotion of a Protector and it gave them both an uneasy feeling. To their ancestors, it was natural, but to them it exposed the dark violence of their history, giving them an unwanted insight as to how the Original Thirteen lived.

“They’re not far Thom” She said.

“What do you want me to do” he resigned. The women looked around to one another as they knew the answer.

“Find him Thom” Chevis began “find him before he finds them. He’s here for me but it won’t take him long to smell another Sentient, you can’t let him return to the north”

“Mother?” Portia began as she re-thought her position “Why not let him simply return north? We can find the Sentients and guide them here. They’ll be safe with us.”

“Tia, I wish it were that simple, but the Marksman are extremly dangerous. It won’t be long before comes here looking for me and he’ll stop at nothing to find me. He believes I’m just simple prey and he’s out on a hunt.”

“I could tell he was dangerous Portia, the first moment he walked through the door. I wouldn’t put up anyone in the Haven against him, except me. She’s right” Thom said as he acknowleged Chevis.

“Find him Thom” Maggie re-interated.

“I will” he said. Thom took her last words as his cue to leave them, he would discuss the other matter of who they belived he was in relation to them another time. He had business to take of. He rose from the table and moved towards the doorway as it again swept opened and walked out towards the forest. ‘Doorknobs’, he thought to himself as he left the clearing and heading back to New Forest.

 

Thom left pub and continued his hunt for the marksman. The afternoon began to grow  old, and he knew that at some point the stranger would have to emerge with in the haven. It was getting late and the man would be seeking shelter somewhere, and he prayed he was still in the area and that he hadn’t yet returned north. He wandered, unnoticed for the most part, through the narrow cart paths that crisscrossed through out the haven until he found himself at his own place of business. It was a small workshop that housed all the neccesary tools for the general duties of a blacksmith, and it served him well as it was actually old stable. He approached the worn door, which sported a small lock that was more of deterrent than a security feature, and produced a small brass key that fit perfectly into it’s receptacle. Letting  himself in, and leaving the door open for the flood of natural light, he proceeded off to one side of the space and placed his crossbow on the working bench and gathered the few hand tools for his task at hand.

His weapon needed to be tuned, and normally it really wasn’t much of an issue, but today he began to feel it was suddenly neccesary. The set screws that adjusted the tension of the spread were easily loosened and the two ends of the bow moved slightly forward, giving the weapon  all the extra force it was capable off. He retighten the tension mechanism and cocked the bow by placing its underside on his knee and by pulling on each end, splitting the weapon in two. It bent in half as the bowstring pulled the spread back and locked itself into position, allowing the neccesary room for the placement of a bolt. His quiver was was only a short reach away and he produced one of his finest bolts; a razor sharp three pronged invader similar to the one he saw in his vision.

It was also the one that would find the Marksman.

But it was the raw power off another bolt that he was not expecting.

A small piece of the far wood and stone wall exploded inward in a hail of splinters and dust as the weapons deadly arsenal ripped through the exterior of the small building, narrowly missing the large man. It violently slammed into the opposite wall and lodged it self into the hardwood, now bent and mangled and useless as an ever again functioning flight. Thom instantly froze and his black rage again rose to the surface as the tell tale sounds of a steed speeding away filled his head. 

His new enemy was still near, but it struck at him first, and he immediately knew the game was over; the Marksman somehow knew of his role.

The sound of the steed disappeared in the distance and he turned towards the interlopers entry point. The raw force neccesary to penetrate the wall surprised him as he knew his own weapon wasn’t capable of such power, and he knew of none that was. He approached the wall and on closer inspection realized how it was possible; the bolt first found the soft grout line between the outside stones before it travelled through the inside wood. The man was a fantastic shot as the lines were thin and precise between the old milled stone .

It was the work of a Marksman, and now he knew of his danger.

He contained his rage for the moment and quietly placed the bolt he was holding into its place, gathered his quiver and a few hand tools and left the small building. He didn’t bother locking the door as he thought perhaps someone could eventually use his place for their own business. He ceased to be a smith the moment the bolt invaded and Thom of the Meadows was dead as the Marksman did find his target, but in a way that the stranger would never understand.

Chevis was right, they all were; he was a Protector and the man in the dark slicker had just confirmed it.

He cleared his mind and focused on the task at hand as he walked through the cartpaths on a direct course to the pub. There wouldn’t be any ale at the end of this walk, he thought, no far from it, he had a job to do and execute it he would. Now he knew the stranger was there, watching and waiting for him, taunting and challenging a Protector and as the calm rage again began to rise up in him again. He rounded one of the last bent corners of the haven and quickened his pace as he made the last corner at the end of the particular path that housed his quarry. As he rounded the bend he saw the steed, quitely hitched and gentle, waiting patiently for his owner. He stopped for a moment and drew out a large knife that he used for the general butchering of the hunt and approached the steed. The animal was unaware of his presence as Thom calmly and deliberatly approached the pub entrance and walked past the animal but not before thrusting the knife deep into its thick throat with such a force that it severed most of the the animals main ateries. The horse instantly dropped with the sudden loss of massive amounts of blood as Thom stood over it a moment. He looked at the poor creature but felt no remorse, he knew the Marksman could never be allowed to leave this place. The animal layed on it’s side at took its last breath as he proceeded to give it a violently hard kick to its large snout.

“And now your friend is next” he said to the dead animal.

He reseated the now bloody knife, and released the saftety mechanism on his crossbow, took a deep calming breath and swung the old door open. He was fortunate in the fact that it was late afternoon as his eyes didn’t need the time to adjust to the change in light, because he saw the Marksman back sitting at the bar. In one swift movement Thom raised his weapon as squezzed the release on the bow. It was pure speed of the Marksman, an impossible speed, that caught him completely off guard. In a movement that more artistic than visibly dangerously, he reached for his very deadly crossbow that was waiting beside him on the bar, spun 180 degrees on his bar stool, and instantly released a bolt of his own. In the split second it took Thom to open the door a release a bolt he found one coming at him, released from the same weapon that had just earlier decimated stone grout and hardwood, and all from a man whos back had been at him. He was expecting a simple execution but the Marksman knew better; he set him up. All his kind had these un-natural abilties that Thom wasn’t aware and incredible speed and stealth were first and foremost and the man knew of his steed, but it gave him no concern as he knew he would return north anyway.

As in his vision at the base of the Great Tree, the world slowed down to an incredibly slow pace and he watched the bolt cross the room, but now it was chest level and his own unstoppable natural movement was producing an still upward motion from his own weapon. He saw the bolts narrowly miss each other in mid flight as they passed as brothers, neither with a quarrel with the other, only fullfilling there respective jobs. The world began to again move into natural time as the Marksman bolt found its mark, but it was not the mark he was expecting. Thoms own crossbow took the brunt of the force as the bolt slammed dead center into the metal spread at the head of the weapon, seperating it from its now splintered wooden host, and ricocheyed through the pubs tired door. The force of the impact actually threw Thom into the wall behind him as his saw his own bolt narrowly miss it own mark and harmlessly graze Ansils cheek and lodge half deep in the

dirty wall behind the bar. The Marksman saw in Thoms eyes the sheer shock of his skills and he smiled and slightly laughed at his adversarys sudden predicament.

“Well Protector” he said as he swiftly reached around his back with one hand and produced a new bolt “I’m no bloody horse”

The exchange was immediate and the patrons barely had a chance to turn their heads at the sudden commotion, when they saw Thom being forced into the wall by some unknown force. The stranger had arrived only a an ale or so previous and those who noticed him choose to not to question his presence. They also knew of the previous incedent between he and Thom, and when the realization of a confrontation between them was in fact a reality; they froze in in mid drink. The stranger was smiling by the time the genaral patronage focused its collective concetration on the emerging situation.

In one fluid motion, the stranger split his weapon over his knee, locking the bow string into place, and with the fresh bolt in position at lightening speed; he again released. It was a shot from the hip movement and Thom found himself for the third time this day facing the deadly weapon. Their was nothing but clean air between the grinning Marksman and himself when again the world slowed to dead pace. He saw the bolt slowly, but now painfully slow, approach his head at slight upwards trajectory. He believed he may have actually been able to walk towards it and grasp it, smell its fine metal and feel its smooth sheen. It, as it had in vision, rotated clockwise and he could see the reason for some of its deadly force and accuracy: The trailing edges of each of the three sharp obtuse triangles that formed its tip, were forged slighty upwards causing a natural effect that caused  rotation as the air it sliced through passed over its surface. He was completly calm as the bolt gained momentum and he moved his head only slightly as the bolt passed by him and slowly entered the pub wall. He looked at the Marksman who was still in mid movement from the release and he smiled to himself as he lunged forward. In an instant Thom was on him as his normal perception returned, and the bolt was only finishing its deadly exit through the wall when the Marksman was violently slammed against the bar with a force that should have snapped his back.

The stranger gasped for air from the impact of the massive man attacking him in full stride as the turn of events threw the weapon from his hand. Thom instantly had control of him and he grasped him by the throat and in one powefull moment threw him across the room. He landed on an occupied table which was quickly vacated as were moving aside at the transaction. They had all witnessed this from him before, but never with such a dark violence, and this time they knew they were finally going see him actually kill someone. He kicked the now unused tables and chairs aside and moved across the pub in order to finish off the Marksman. The stranger was now on the floor, battered and bruised, but his own black energy rose up in him. He rolled over on all fours and lunged forward at Thom with an action more akin to a vicious cat than a man who saw his advasary approach. He struck at a powefull angle, up and at his neck, knocking him of his feet and causing the both of them to fall back to the floor. The Marksman was on top, vicously beating Thom with everything he had in him and he managed to break his nose, and cheek bone before he recovered from the straight fall on his back to the floor. The blows were insignificant as he reached up and againd seized the man by the throat and threw him off him, but he wouldn’t release his grip this time; the fight was over.

Thoms powerfull hand instantly began to crush his neck and he again gasped for air, now digging his nails into the skin of the appendage that held his head firmly in place. Thom rolled over, keeping his power and his grip on him and he stood up, with his pray in hand, and drug him across the floor and over to the bar. The Man from the North, The Stranger, a Marksman, knew he was about to die, and he was prepared for this entire life. However in a small pub, in a nowhere haven deep in the Lost Territories, was not his idea of the end. But it was. Thom lifted his head up him and looked down into the mans eyes.

“Apparently you really are just a horse” he said as he released him from the throat and siezed he by the back of his long hair and slammed his head into the thick bar surface, with such power that it rattle the delicate glasses. The first blow immediately threw him into unconciousness, but it was the second and third that split the mans head apart. The pub became deadly silent as Thom released the body and allowed it to slump to the floor. He turned towards the others and quietly stared to into the small crowd that all stood in silence; no explanation was offered to them and none was certainly asked of. He turned his attention back towards his current situation and spied the dead mans weapon. It was lying, alone and now unused, on the floor of the pub and Thom that it was somehow meant to be his. He emptied the quiver of it bolts and placed them into his own that was somehow still strapped over his shoulder, he than reached down and layed his hands on his prize.

The weapon slightly vibrated to his touch as he picked it up from the floor and examined it closer. The ash white stock was a hard wood, as he had originily thought, and there were two bow lines, not one, that melded together at the point that met behind the flights of a bolt. The spread was forged of a deep blue metal that he had never seen before, created in a far off land that he no real knowledge of, and each end of it had a cam system that appeared to double its deadly force. He found the cocking latch and split it two as he carefully watched the mechanisms manipulate the simple laws of physics. The spread pulled back as the odd metal bent to an almost imposible point that certainly would have snapped his former weapons soft metal. He was beginning to see where it got its power, and he certainly knew of one thing; it was no simple hunting weapon, it was a killing instrument. He closed the weapon back up as he knew it couldn’t possibly be healthy for it to keep it cocked for any length of time, with that incredible spread putting immesurable force on its general mechanisms. He strapped it his back, still feeling the odd vibration it gave out, and looked about the pub. The patrons were placing tables and chairs back in place not even slightly acknoweledging what they had just witnessed; Ansil would deal with it. He was contimplating what he had just saw, when Thom turned towards him.

“I had my reasons Ansil” was all he said. Ansil was one of the few voices of authority with in the haven since there was no real law and order, only a general community concensus as to crime and punishment, an he was one of the respected individuals. Word of the incedent would spread quickly and Thom certainly didn’t want a possie at his door in the middle of the night, attempting to drag him off and hang him for murder.

“He drew his weapon as you drew yours, so we’ll simply leave it at that” he said with the voice of the community concensus that he partially owned.

“But Thom” he quietly warned “not ever again in my establishment, do you understand that?”

“There’s a lot more going on here than I expect you to see” he began, but Ansil interrupted him.

“I don’t care about your sudden new found love for that mistake of a cat, or the fact that you’ve been spotted in Rowsom Woods. I don’t know what it is that’s going through your mind, Thom, and to tell you the truth; I honestly don’t want to know. Just stay within the rules of this haven and we’ll have no trouble” he spat out at him. “Now” he began again with a much more calm deameanor as Thom stared down at him maintaining his short temper. “I’m asking you, not telling you, to tell me about this man” he said as he looked down at the dead body.

“He’s from the North” Thom said “and now he’s dead” he finished with a grin that sent a shiver up the barkeeps spine. Ansil immediately knew that their was really no point in further pursuing any line of questioning about the dead stranger, as Thom was certainly not about to open up about some truth that he suspected he held.

“Fine” He said in a dismissive tone “but be warned; keep it out of here” he said as he leaned over the bar and pointed a slender finger in Thom’s face. He knew he was about walk away from an execution that he attempted to perform,  but it was the speed of the Marksman that had actually saved him, as he would have blindly killed the man and the consequencese could have been much different. It was also the moment that could have changed so many things. Thom acknowledged Ansil with a slight nod and again spoke.

“I’ll have that cleaned up shortly” he said refering to the cold stranger on the floor.

“Please do” Ansil said as Thom turned on his heels and left the pub.

The walk home was of a different nature for him than any of others from the pub. He was used to being in an alcholic fog, but today his mind was sharp and his insticts were honed and the thought of ‘Protecter’ filled his head. He knew what he had just done was the correct course of action, but he also knew that the others in the haven would simply look at it as a murder he got away with; not unlike his own father. But it really didn’t concern him one way or the other as they simply didn’t understand; he was barely only beginning to comprehend all of it. They knew of his association with the Covens and he immediately knew that someone over the past few days was communicating with the Marksman at the pub. But who had saw him enter and exit Rowsom was what the begged the question: Who was watching him?. A foreboding sense fell over him, as he realized he could trust none in the haven, and it spoke volumes of the community in this time and place. The irony was that the only one he could trust was Chevis, and that still disturbed him. He was still alone, but the images from the visions in the center of the forest filled his mind, he knew soon he would find his true friends as he knew more about them than perhaps they knew of themselves. He saw their souls and sensed their spirits.

Still deep in thought and meandering home through the winding cartpath, another strange yet familiar feeling suddenly overcame him, and awoke him from his world of thought. Chevis was quietly sitting on the unkept grasses of his front yard, dismissing the world as she groomed her left paw. As he approached her, he was slightly surprised by his sudden ability to sense her presence, but he knew it would eventually serve him well.

She lowered her paw as she walked up to her, and looked up at him with sympathetic eyes.

“I’m sorry you had to do that Thom” She sincerely said as raw emotion filled her fine face. He stopped in front of her, unstrapped the bow, and lowered himself to the ground.

“So am I” he said as he sat with her, now drained of all adrenalin.“but it had to be done” he finished and he then explained to her the whole eposide at his business.

“I see you kept his weapon” she noted as she looked at the crossbow that was lying in the grass beside him.

“Yeah I did, it’s an incredible piece of work” he said.

“We’ll need it” she returned. “turn it over, I want to seee something”

Thom reached over to his new friend and twisted it on its back as Chevis rose up and approched it for further inspection. It was the wooden stock that she needed to see. Unseen to Thom, there was a small inscription on the bottom portion of it that he hadn’t yet had the time to notice. She ran her small paw over it, feeling it more than reading the words.

“This was the bow of a legendary Marksman named Seth” she simply said as Thom looked at her for further explanation. “He alone  killed more Sentients than all the others combined” she clarified as she looked up to him. He picked up the weapon and brought it up to his face so he could see the inscription. ‘Always one more’ it read.

“Well it’s days of killing Sentients are over” he flatly stated as placed it back on the ground “Who was this Seth?” he asked.

“Just a marksman with natural talent more than anything else, but he had an ability to fool Sentients, and that was what gave his success” she answered.

“How many where their in that time?” he asked in curiosity.

“I’m not really to sure” she began “I didn’t exist in the North but I’ll say that their were certainly over fifty at one point. You see the Original Thirteen practiced the magic neccesary to create us on a incredibly frequent basis; it was new to them so they constantlyexplored it”

“You know I don’t know much about the Craft” He said “but how can it be possible to give an animal a mind?” It was a simple question that had been begging an answer ever since the first time he was aware of Chevis. And it was one that needed to be answered.

She sat in silent contimplation for a moment, pondering the depth of the question befrore she spoke.

“It’s not really a matter of giving an animal a mind” she began “It’s a matter of giving one a spirit and the sentient mind is really more an effect of it than the outcome. Though it really is the outcome. You see, there are spirits that exist in the other world that can be brought down and harnesed for the the use of a Coven with in the circle, but the Thirteen discovered a form of magic, more by mistake than anything else, that kept these spirits in this world, but in order to hold them here they needed a host; a living creature. An animal” she explained as she continued on “All sentients really exist in two worlds, though most were never aware of it”

They continued to sit on the grass in the falling light of the dusk and discuss the realties of the Sentients.

“Okay that actually makes some sense, if that’s how all this works” he said “But what about you, your different”

“I’m a mistake Thom” she said as she raised her paw left to her tiny mouth. She groomed for a brief moment before she continued “I was never supposed to be and niether were the squirells, however here we all are.”

“I don’t understand” he said.

“The Original Thirteen gave me life, but they performed the magic necesarry for it in the center of the forest; they travelled their only once and myself and them are the result of that one particular act” she said “the center of the New Forest is a powerfull place, She herself exists their, and when the spirit down that gave me sentients they didn’t know it was actually a small part of Her”

“Who’s Her?”

“All that is”

“Some God?”

“The Goddess herself, that’s why I have magic, I’m the only creature alive that naturally has these abilties” she said as she looked into him “and there will never be another Thom, I’m the only one” she finished.

“Well one of you is certainly enough” he said with a chuckle.

She returned his smile and continued.

“Its also why I’m still alive, far after the natural lifespan of a cat; it’s the power of Her. She’s my mother.”

“I’ve seen enough not to question you about your origins, or what you really are, but what about them?” he asked.

“Like I said; a mistake” she began “The Thirteen never knew of the after effect of creating me in the center. They drew down and incredible amount of energy and some it stayed. The spirits were in a sense let loose, and left in between the our two worlds and they needed to manifest themselves somewhere and it seems they chose the squrells.”

“Sentients for the animals” he said as he slowly began to understand.

“Exactly” she said.“There born with a spirit, but now the spirits are finally returning to their natural world”

“And thus; simple animals are being born” he said with comprehension. 

 She said nothing but nodded in affirmation.

“Chevis” he cautiosly began “If this is all a mistake, then why not simply let nature take it’s course. Don’t get me wrong I’ll certainly do my part, afterall I want them to live more than I think you realise, but isn’t it really the will of your Goddess?”

“Yes it is, but remember I’m a part of her, so it’s really my choice and I choose to try to give them life. They created a society Thom, you’ve experienced it, you know, and face it; is it really right to allow that to disappear?”

“No” he interjected “I agree with you whole hearted on that”

“Right” she said “so that’s  the reason for all this, and the reason for us to go there; I have to draw the spirits back down, but I can’t do it alone”

“That I don’t understand” he said.

She said nothing again for a moment as she thought of the simplest way of explaining the unexplanable.

“You see, and this is where it gets complicated, though I posses magic, its not the same as a Covens magic, because it was a Covens magic that originally created myself and the squirells. It’s that form of power that needs to be recreated. I’m an effect not a cause, it the girls in Rowsom that are a cause, it’s an act of magic by a Coven that will solve this, and they have to recreate the greatest act ever”

“Can they?” Thom asked.

“Not yet” She candidly answered. “But they should, no” she corrected herself “they have to, by the time we reach the center”

The sky was growing dark as Chevis rose up on fours.

“I have to go” She said. “They’ll be here tomorrow, that’s actually why I’m here by the way”

“When?” he asked in a quiet excitement that her senses didn’t miss.

“I’ll bring them in the morning” She answered.

“All right then, and it is getting late” He said 

“And you’ve had a long day”

“You got that right, but one more thing Chevis” he said to her as she stretched

her thin body “What about that tree?”

“You know, honest words Thom, I have no idea why it’s there. I can’t see all and the Great Tree is an inigma that I just can’t figure out. Sometimes certain things elude me, and that damn tree is one of them” She said with a slight laugh as she shook her head.

“The Great Chevis is perplexed” He said to her in a teasing tone, as his thick eyebrows rose.

“Shut up and go to bed” She countered with a smile as she left the grasses and turned down the cartpath.

The vision were more emotionally intense then he was slowly getting used to. He still awoke, shaking and sweating, but tonight he saw the brothers in death. He watched Fowland breath his last breath but he wasn’t at his side as the old squirell talked about him with his dying words, and Fiddich laughed to himself, somewhwere deep in thought, as he also joined the Night Sun. Thom was at the base of the Great Tree once again, but now there were no squirrels in sight, or deep in his mind and the now dead Marksman was also not present. He was alone with the center of their world. The top of the tree towered towards the clouds and he wondered what it was like high above as he caressed its rough bark. Again, it was warm to the touch and he could feel life flowing through it, strong and healthy. He placed both hands on the bark, and they seemed to give him an unnatural grip on the surface as he gently squezzed a small outcropping of bark. Looking down at his feet, he placed the tip of one foot on the surface and it to clung to the tree. The Great Tree was allowing him the ability to climb it; so he did. Effortlessly, he moved up it, past the Welcoming Dugout, and above the highest tree in the clearing. He looked over his shoulder as he ascended, slowly observing the world grow smaller until he reached the first branches high above. The forest stretched on, with no clear break in the canopy, and he found himself amazed at the sight of the horizon gently disappearing into to nothingness. He quickly reached up to the first branch, more climbing around its massive girth than actually using it for leverage, and entered the strange foliage.

Somehow he knew he had to continue on upward. The branches slowly began to

shrink in size until he was capable of wrapping his arms around them, and as he grew

closer to the apex, they became much more managible. He noticed the light was a again

growing stonger as he continued on until he finally broke through and saw the world

from the highest height possible. Clinging to the braches, Thom looked in awe as the

Great Tree spoke.

‘You are not one of them’ it said in a male voice.

‘No, I’m not’ he answered.

‘And you are?’ it asked.

‘From another place’ he said.

‘The place the two of them went?’

‘Yes’

‘They are my children” it stated.

‘I know’ he acknowledged ‘but what really are you?’

‘The Great Tree and I hold the fresh souls that exist between the two

 worlds.’

‘How?’ he asked.

‘I have no answer for that question, I am just a keeper of spirits’

‘A conduit’ Thom said in slight revelation.

‘A vessel’ it countered.

‘A holder of souls’ he said again in understanding.

‘Yes’ it simply said.

He looked out towards the far horizon and sensed the appeal that would draw a squirel

up to these heights. He slowly lowered himself from the top and climbed through the

foliage until he reached its outer perimeter. He again looked out over the world and promptly jumped.

He was violently slammed into consciosness by the force of his collision with the floor of the clearing in his vision, once again bolting upright, sweating and shaking profusly. It was early dawn, and he again felt as though he had barely any sleep, and though he was only beginning to understand the visions; he knew he couldn’t go one forever with the exhausted feeling they gave him. He rose from his bed and sensed a certain aprehension in the Beast; they were near he surmised. The hearth needed tending he thought as he dressed and shook off the night, and Chevis would be around by noon he somehow knew. The truth of what the Great Tree really was filled his mind in between the simple mundane tasks of the morning. A week previous he also thought with a laugh, a simple week and his entire life had changed. Squirells, a Great Tree, Rowsom woods, a Marksman, Portia, all things he knew nothing of a simple week ago, consumed his now not so simple world.

It was the visions, and he knew it, that brought the radical alteration in his person. They were a part of him, and explanation and a truth to his reality, and without them he would be sitting in the pub wondering what Chevis’ new game with him was all about. But there was no game, and if there was; it was one they would play together. As of the previous night, he was also beginning to realize he was actually starting to like her; she had an odd sense of humour that he had


© Copyright 2019 chris r adam. All rights reserved.

Chapters

Add Your Comments: