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Chapter 1: The meeting
Running through the forest, my legs started to cramp. “Do I let those two thieves get me?” I thought. “No, if I get to the Manor, Lord Gregor will help me. But then again he might send me to the gallows for betraying his favorite knight, Sir Luxor (the tall, handsome, muscular, blond haired, blue-eyed war machine) to his most hated brother, King Caranox. But Luxor wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t had a change of heart, killed the guards around the gallows and the hangman, stolen a nearby horse and brought his unconscious body back to the Manor. All I can hope for is some mercy and forgiveness.”
I turned so sharply to the left I almost fell, but I grabbed a branch above me to stop my fall. Luckily, I succeeded because the undergrowth was thick and filled with a myriad of tangled roots and poison ivy.
I thought I had lost the thieves, so I stopped to catch my breath which came in short rasps; it sounded like the Manor’s hunting dogs after a good hunt. Right after I started to run again, something hit my head. It felt like the forest fell on me.
I awoke to find myself beside a fire with my head bandaged. I was about to tear off the thick white cloths, when a gruff voice said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Startled, I reached to my hip, but my sword wasn’t there, then to my boot, but my dagger wasn’t there either.
“If you’re looking for your blades, they’re in the oak tree five or six feet to your right.
“W-who’s there”, I said, “and where are you?”
A young man stepped from the shadows of a large oak tree five or six feet on my left. His brown hair was cut down to his ears, and he had piercing brown eyes that seemed to look into my very soul. His movements were very careful. A scar ran down his left arm from the elbow to his wrist. I could see the muscles rippling beneath his skin. He looked about six feet tall. I thought he could be in the king’s army.
“Well I think I answered one of your questions. Next you want to know who am I. I am Gexor.”
“Sir Luxor’s brother?”
“Yes, his brother. It’s too bad that some child saved him from the gallows. The child had, from what I heard, shoulder length hair, was fifteen or sixteen years of age with aged wood colored skin. He had a rough, angular, oval shaped head and deep set brown eyes. His six foot tall body looked like you could snap it like a twig, but he was stronger than mortal men and had speed beyond the elves’. He also had the best swordsmanship in all of Arkania.” explained Gexor. “Now tell me who you are?”
Before I answered I went to the tree the pointed out to me. When I reached the tree I saw that my blades were there along with my leather pack. I reached into my pack and grabbed my water skin which was three quarters full, poured some of it on my face to rinse off the dried blood on my face. When I was finished, I said: “It was I who put your brother on the hangman’s list and it was I who saved him.” I turned so he could see my face with the blood off of it and said: “You see?”
“Ah, so you did tell the truth. Out of curiosity, where did you get those blades of yours? They are of the finest make in Arkania.”
“I did the impossible. I beat the Hidden Smith in a game of riddles. The game lasted eight days, six hours and several minutes.”
“That is quite an impressive feat.”
“Out of curiosity, why do you hate your brother so?”
“It is a very long story,” answered Gexor, “and very dull.”
“Well, we have all night, unless you want to part company.” I countered.
“I’d prefer we stay in each other’s company for there are many dangers in the wood for one alone.” replied Gexor.
“I agree with you there.” I said.
“Well, when I was about ten, (sixteen years ago) my mother, Juliane, died giving birth to a baby boy. So father, Michael named the baby Jacob, because it was my grandfather’s name, and raised the boy for about five years. Meanwhile, Luxor learned of a prophesy from an old fortune teller. The prophecy said something like:
‘Of the fifth day of the fifth month a babe will be born, thinner in bone than most but with strength and speed beyond reason with no mortal weakness. On his fifth year of his fifth spring he will forget everything he has learned. Take the boy from his land, hide him far from his father For the one who takes him from the house and home stay near for when the boy is of age he will go on a quest, to help the Dragons reappear from the land of the Banished. To become one with the Dragons and to use the power of ‘Old” to steal the lord of evil and maintain the balance of good and evil. Beware for he may use the power for selfish reasons unless he is pur of heart.” Gexor stopped for some time then said, “When father found our of the prophecy and of Jacob’s disappearance, he was desperate to find his lost son. But as desperate as he was to find him he couldn’t leave our family’s land behind. So he sent me in his place. And since Luxor disappeared the same day as Jacob, we thought it might’ve been him who took Jacob. Now within the last year after eleven years, I’ve managed to track Luxor down. And my tale ends with you and her, here.”
“Now that’s what I call an interesting tale.” I noted, “Now why is my head bandaged?”
“A Drale threw a stone at you and lodged it in the left side of your face.”
“But I thought the “Forest Shadows” couldn’t through physical objects.”
“They can if they’re mad.” Gexor stated.
“Gexor, would you like me to help you find your long lost brother?” I asked hopefully.
“I don’t know, but with all your strength, speed and skill of blade it would assure a safe quest.” Said Gexor thinking aloud then said “I accept your offer.”
Gexor and I then moved closer together and started to speak of plans on how to get Luxor to tell us where Jacob might be.
By the time we stopped talking, the first rays of dawn were breaking the horizon.
Gexor then suggested that we sleep for a couple of hours, but I, eager to start, said: “No, we must hurry before they close the gates to the Manor tonight. That is unless you wan to scale the twenty-foot wall that prickly vines surround.”
”No, I wouldn’t want to do that.” replied Gexor.
“Then we must be off. If we hurry then we should make it in six or seven hours.” I said, hurriedly.
Chapter 2: Fight
Sometime later, about three or four hours later, we heard several shouts to our right.
Then all of the sudden seven or eight bandits jumped out of the woods and before we could react, five of them grabbed and bound me and took my sword. But as they took my sword I saw fear in their eyes, for they dropped the blade and quickly picked it back up.
But what I noticed and they didn’t was the Gexor escaped notice by hiding in the shadows of the forest.
I noticed that almost all of the thieves carried daggers except three. So I figured that they were high ranking in this group of bandits. Taking my chances, I used all the strength I could must in this uncomfortable position to beak the bonds tying me to the oaktree.
Several seconds later I heard a snap and my arms were free.
“Thank God the thieves aren’t paying attention to me,” I thought.
I reached down to my boot and pulled my dagger from the hidden sheath and cut the bonds tying my legs.
Next, I slink into the shadows and went to the opposite end of the camp where I grabbed my sword.
I was about to sneak out and slay the bandits when something reached our and grabbed me from behind. Startled, I gasped, maybe a bit too loud because everyone looked to where I was supposed to be.
That was when Gexor spoke to me. “I’ll distract them and get them to follow me and you pick them off from the back.” And with that he was gone.
I heard someone howl with rage when they discovered that I was gone. Then that’s when I heard Gexor yell: “Come get me you violent, worm-like wretches.” And with that the thieves went after him.
That’s when I took action. I bent down and picked up a fist size rock and threw it with all my strength. The stone hit a bandit with an impact that broke his neck and went straight through like a sword through the gut, and lodged itself in the back of the head of a man in front of him. Both of them died instantly.
Meanwhile, I jumped ten feet forward, drew my sword and beheaded a thief to my left and in the same stroke took the right arm off another man who shrieked and fled, but before he fled somebody stabbed him in the gut with a two foot wide and eight foot long blade. I leapt again and landed next to Gexor.
That’s when I noticed that the man with the big sword was struggling to swing it at his opponent because the thief was dodging his blade easily. So I grabbed my dagger, by the blade, and threw it at the thief. My dagger hit its target with a thud as it went through the left eye and the back of his skull.
While I was engaged, Gexor slew both his opponents, but suddenly the eighth bandit, from behind, grabbed Gexor by the neck and put a dagger to it, yelling: “I challenge Joeseph to a duel of blades or this man dies!”
I accepted and stood in combat stance. The man pushed Gexor aside and Gexor hit a tree head on and was unconscious instantly.
The bandit stood five feet away also in combat position. I analyzed his position and decided he was a fairly good swordsman.
Suddenly, and without warning, he flew at me, sword raised to behead me. But for some reason he switched the sword’s direction and tried to take my legs from under me.
I countered the attack with ease.
The he swung at me again, but before he could harm me, I, too, raised my sword and swung and as we clashed blades, my opponent’s shattered into a thousand different pieces. With a flick of my wrist, I knocked the hilt out of his hand and beheaded him with another swish of my blade.
I walked over to Gexor to see if he was well, but before I got there, the Big Sword Man got there first and he poured some water on Gexor and Gexor awoke.
“W…. What happened?” sputtered Gexor.
“You got pushed into a tree head first, and were knocked unconscious”, he answered.
“I know that, you fool! But what happened to the remaining thieves while I was our?” retorted Gexor.
I pointed to the headless body, then to the bodiless head and gave a shudder, remembering our short fiasco.
“Oh,” said Gexor.
I turned to the Big Sword Man and demanded, “Who are you?”
“I am Shane Russlelsson,” rumbled the man and turned toward the forest, as if we were dead.
“Odd man,” said Gexor, and I nodded in agreement.
The Manor’s iron cast gate loomed high above us, as if we were ants and it were the man. The two looked at us from their pitch in the wall and said, ”What is your purpose in Guardina, Joseph?”
I, caught off guard hearing the Manor’s ancient name, momentarily forgot our plan.
Recovering I said, “To take my uncle to see his sister, Marian.” With that they allowed us to pass.