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Stones of Revenge: The Awakening, Chapter 1, Part 2

An hour later a fire burned steadily in the small cottage in which Landon and Mordecai lived. Above the fire in the hearth sat a large cauldron filled with various vegetables and water. A thick steam emanated from the cusp filling the wood building with a sweet aroma. Landon sat in front of the fire slowly stirring the stew. The door to his right creaked open, and his uncle strode in looking weary from the day.

“I hope that stew is as good as it smells. I need a strong meal tonight.”

Landon was fixing their supper pottage. Being peasants, they ate the same thing every night: corn and potatoes mashed together and mixed with hot water. He stirred the mixture, trying to decipher how long until it was ready to eat. Mordecai strode toward the cauldron, grasped the ladle, and took a long sip.

“Needs more salt,” he grumbled.

“But since we have none, I’d say it’s ready,” Landon said. He quickly retrieved two bowls from a shelf on the wall adjacent to the hearth and dumped two large spoonfuls in each. He carefully handed one to his uncle and took one for himself. They each sat around the fire relaxing in silence and feeling the warmth from the blaze encase them.

The hut Mordecai and Landon lived in was made of wood and had a sad, thatched, straw roof. The living area in which they sat contained a shabbily built fireplace in the center of one wall surrounded by rows of shelves holding dilapidated bowls and utensils, sacks of potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, and beets. The other walls stood empty. Behind the two men in the center of the room sat a large wooden table. To the left of the large room, a hallway disappeared into darkness leading to two smaller rooms. The only sound permeating the silence was the sporadic crackle of fire. Cautiously, Landon engaged a conversation.

“Are you worried the rain might fall early?” he asked quietly between bites. “I’ve been calculating the days, and we will have just enough time if the journals prove correct. If they come early, we will have no hope.”

“It will be close,” Mordecai concurred taking a long sip from his bowl. “The journals have always been shockingly accurate. I’m going to trust that they are correct.”

“The closest place is Archer’s in town. We will need an early start, I believe.”

“Perhaps, but Archer’s been seeing some tough times recently,” Mordecai said. “He may be out of harnesses. If that’s the case, we’ll need to ride to Linsford nearly two days away. We would never make it back in time.” Mordecai took another long sip of his pottage gnawing on a large chunk of potato then gulping it down. The warm food eased his weary muscles.

“Let’s pray it doesn’t come to that.”

Mordecai grunted.

“I’d say we should leave as close to dawn as we can. It’s about a good four hours the way Abaccus rides. And Archer will have his shop opened as soon as the sun shines on his store.”

“Agreed,” Landon said. He paused keeping his gaze upon the floor. Mordecai could sense an idea forming in his mind.

“What is it you have in mind, Landon?” Mordecai inquired raising his right eyebrow.

“Well, I was just thinking, since you have known Archer far longer than I, it seems fitting that you should deal with him. And, since, you would not want me to interfere I thought I might find other interests to occupy my time.”

“Come out with it. To what ‘other interests’ are you referring?” He said abruptly.

“I thought I might check out some wares from Godfrey’s.”

Mordecai’s eyebrows bent down toward his nose forming a sharp point just above the bridge. Red firelight shone on his face giving him a sinister appearance.

“No. Godfrey is trouble, Landon. It always follows close behind him and anyone who comes close to him. It would be best if we just got what we needed from Archer’s and came home to finish our jobs.”

Landon looked down at the empty bowl in front of him. He wanted to press the issue, but he knew better than to do so today. His uncle was tired and tended to get stubborn near bedtime. In addition, that look on his uncle’s face was one he had only seen once before. It somewhat frightened him. But when Landon looked up at Mordecai’s face again, it had relaxed.

“Plus,” Mordecai continued, “There has been an extra regiment of Lord Malchus’ guards on post this month, and the whole town has been on edge. With the planting we need to do, your birthday coming up, and the guards in town, we really don’t need any extra trouble following us around right now.”

‘My birthday coming up?’ ‘Extra trouble?’ What in the world could possibly connect those two phrases? Landon thought.

“As you wish, uncle,” he agreed putting the thought to rest. “It’s getting late. I’ll clean up while you head off to bed. Tomorrow promises to be a long day.”

“No arguing here.” Mordecai said. He rose from the table. “Good night, young one.”

“Night, Uncle.”

As soon as Mordecai left the room, Landon collected the two bowls and the cauldron and hauled them outside into the dry night. He set everything down to clean the bowls by filling them with sand and lightly dipping them into the barrel of water standing by the door. He left them floating on the surface. Then he grabbed the cauldron which was half-full with the remaining potage and trudged it over to the swine pens. He poured the contents into the long metal trough from which the pigs ate.

“You are most welcome,” he said bowing low to the sleeping swine. Then, he returned to the bowls he had left by the door. Setting down the black pot, Landon reached for the bowls and began scrubbing the insides with the mud. He rinsed them off and brought everything inside to be hung over the fire to dry.

He passed through the main room and into the dark hallway. It was a narrow corridor that led to two dark rooms. On the left was Mordecai’s room, while Landon occupied the room on the right. Landon walked towards his bedroom leisurely. He could already hear the loud snores emanating from his uncle’s bedroom. His mind burned with everything they had to do the next few days. He passed Mordecai’s room on his left then made a swift right into his. It was a fairly sparse room. His bed lay along the far wall beneath the only window. At the end of his bed was a long wooden box full of his personal belongings. A wooden table stood adjacent to the bed along the nearest wall to the door. Next to it, Landon laid his stiff leather soles which he had taken off. He removed his dirty, brown tunic and laid it on the box at the foot of the bed. He sat down on the bed, and his body immediately eased feeling the softness. The stifling heat from the fire place filled the entire hut and made it hard to breathe. Landon opened the shutters and revealed the twinkling night sky.

Landon stared at the shining canvas spread out before him. “The sky is so vast,” he said. “What numerous unknowns exist out there? Are my father and mother out there? Will I ever meet them?” Questions such as these tore him apart from time to time. There were days when the world seemed unjust, and there were days when he simply longed for the chance to meet his parents, if only for a moment. Tonight was the latter. He continued to fix his gaze upon the expanse as he lay down on his bed. His shoulders ached from all of the hard work he had been putting in lately. He wrapped his hands behind his head and rested into his bed.

Suddenly, a line streaked across the sky. It was brief but noticeable. Landon blinked as his eyes began to water. When he was a young lad, Mordecai told Landon every star that fell across the night sky was his mother’s tear shed for him. Now, almost a man, Landon knew it was only a child’s story meant to help him grieve the loss of his parents, but tonight he couldn’t help but feel it was in answer to his questions. His parents were watching him.

He watched and waited for another shooting star. As he did so, he noticed a rhythm in the twinkling of the night lights. Those on the left would quickly illuminate and dim at regular intervals while those on the right would shine for a few seconds before they dimmed only to reemerge with their brightness. Landon watched the scene, and slowly he relaxed his gaze upon the canvas of night. He thought for a brief second he could almost feel the movement of the stars as they flickered above him. He began to tap his toes to a rhythm. Then faintly, quietly in the back of his mind a soft tune reached Landon’s ears. It was as if the music of the universe was being carried on the wind, played to the dancing of the night sky. Landon closed his eyes listening to the symphony while the moments passed. Slowly his thoughts drifted off to far away things and the unknown.

In an instant, Landon was standing on a large hill or mountain top, he couldn’t be sure, overlooking a gorgeous sea clear as crystal. It spread out before him as far as the eye could see. Along the horizon Landon could make out only the hint of something large floating upon the surface. Adjacent to the sea on his left was a wide plain full of the greenest grass he had ever seen. There were a few empty rolling hills dotting the landscape. There was no sign of any animal or any other life. Away in the distance a large grove of trees darkened the scene. The trees ran across the horizon line, encircled the plain on the left creating a beautiful forest, and ran into the mountain upon which he stood. Next to the plain the thick forest was filled with the oldest and loveliest trees ever to have grown. Landon stood in awe of the wonder he was witnessing.

He decided to turn around to discover what other amazing sights this terrain had to offer. Behind him, Landon gazed upon a large mountainous landscape full of cliffs and gullies, precipices and mounts. Spread out across this land were thousands upon thousands of men and animals. They all appeared to be caught up in a great battle. Men in glorious golden armor clashed together. The armor glinted in a sunshine that appeared to shine from everywhere but could not be seen. The men fought fiercely, striking blows that Landon never thought possible and surviving the impact. One man carried a large red sword and fought two and three soldeirs at a time. He threw them to the ground with the greatest of ease, and in the cruelty of his heart killed them easily when they had surrendered. The man seemed to be making his way toward a gigantic throne encased in emerald. Upon it sat a kingly man who watched the battle from his vantage point. His expression did not contain any form of concern for he had his attention on another battle.

This took place closer to the spot where Landon stood. A tall soldier with long brown hair a violet sword battled an encircling horde of fifteen enemies. He held them off by using their weapons against them. One man charged while two others flanked him. The first man carried an orange sword and swung it above his head causing a distraction for the other two.

“Give it up, Gabriel. We have you surrounded.”

The soldier named Gabriel didn’t wait, but instead charged the man on his right bringing a confused look to his assailant’s face. Meanwhile, he flung his violet sword across his body at the other attacker piercing him clear through the right thigh. He fell to the ground, immobile, attempting to remove the weapon. The warrior caught the first enemy’s shield and used it as a spring board to fling himself over his adversary. Not knowing what to do, the man swung his sword to knock Gabriel out of the sky. Instead it clanged upon the golden shield of the first opponent who had been swinging his orange sword wildly. This sent a shudder through both men. Instantly, Gabriel grabbed the red sword from the man he had just vaulted and sliced his head clean off with one stroke. Then, with a twist of his body, he impaled the third man through the side by thrusting the sword behind him and between his torso and right arm. All three men lay at his feet dead.

The twelve remaining men backed away to fashion another plan. Not wanting to give them a chance, Gabriel retrieved two of his enemy’s shields and flung them like disks at the group of men. The first fell harmlessly to the ground as the group dispersed to avoid being hit. However, the second flew from Gabriel’s hand just as fast as the first and landed on the helm of two other men knocking them unconscious. Now there were ten. He jogged over the retrieve his indigo blade and yanked it from the dead man’s leg. He took a step back and faced the remaining combatants holding his sword high above his head in an offensive pose.

Behind him two horses and a goat fought wildly. They did not walk on all fours, however. This stunned Landon and as he intently watched the scene, one horse stood on its hind legs and appeared to walk towards the goat. The goat also reared up on its hind legs and with its two front hooves swung wildly at the first horse. The horse batted the goat’s hooves away. Landon was amazed to see two animals act as humans did. The second horse had become lost in the melee and was now charging into the midst of the animal combatants. It slammed its head into the side of the goat sprawling him to the ground. The first horse then stood over his enemy pounding its hooves into the fallen animal to ensure its death.

Landon turned his attention toward another fight where a man who carried a blue sword was fighting for the King. This man had long flowing sandy brown hair that waved as he ran across the battle field. At the moment, the man tended to a fallen soldier who had just attempted to stop the evil warrior with the red sword. Though the two men were hundreds of yards away Landon could see clearly that the wounded man had a large gash from his neck down his left side. The man with the blue sword held a rag against his skin trying to calm him down.

As he was doing so, an enemy soldier wielding an amber colored sword ran up behind him to impale him through the back. As the amber sword came down upon the medic, the wounded soldier raised his emerald sword to warn him. The man with the blue sword then spun around quick as lightning and caught his assailant under the chin. The amber sword fell to the ground as the assailant dropped to his knees, a blue sword jutting from his neck. The medic sliced clean through his enemy’s throat removing his weapon. The enemy slumped to the ground and the soldier returned to bandaging his fallen comrade.

“Lie back, Aziel, it is almost over,” he could hear the man say. “Go, be at peace.” The wounded man lifted himself up as if to respond, but before a word could get out blood trickled through his mouth and he slumped back to the rock hard earth.

“Jediael, Michael needs us!” came a shout from another soldier standing nearly twenty feet away. Landon stood frozen. ‘Jediael? That’s my father’s name.’

Then Landon awoke drenched in sweat.

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