Free Preview to The Arising Book 2 of The Stones of Revenge

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Chapter One 

Tactics and Tailors

He raised his sword to guard against the tremendous weight of the blade crashing down upon him. The odors of sweat and dirt filled his nostrils as the threat of death filled his mind.  Sharp metal slashed against sharp metal. He took a step back. The blade sprung towards his left side this time. Deftly, he rotated his own saber and placed it between the deathblow and himself. The man pushed against it making his opponent retreat a few steps. Now, he was on the offensive. Quickly, he charged.

Forward thrust.

Parry.

Side thrust.

Parry

Forward thrust.

Parry.

Push forward. Push forward.

Forward thrust. Side swipe.

Parry.

Side swipe, feint, rotate wrist.

Move to block.

Disarm.

The crowd surrounding the two combatants erupted in cheers. The man reached down and retrieved his opponent’s sword lying in the dust. His challenger, a young man, held out a shaking hand. He delicately placed the saber into it, and the two of them bowed to one another. The younger man stalked off happy to be alive, but not quite sure what had happened. Another young lad from the crowd stepped forward.

“Sergeant Preston, how do you make it look so easy?”

“Practice. Years of practice,” he said quietly sheathing his sword. Then he barked, “Attention!”

Immediately, the clanging of shields and armor silenced as the men snapped their heels together and stood tall.

“I propose a challenge. Winner receives an invitation to the Captain’s Feast this eve.”

Immediately, a large crowd of men sprang forward.

“Loser must keep guard along the ridge, unaccompanied.”

“But, sir, the frosts. No one can survive them,” one said.

“If that is his fate,” Preston said stone-faced.

All but two of the men retreated. The sergeant examined them in great detail.

“So – there are still men of valor left in the realm. Draw your weapons.”

Their swords scraped against the metal on their sheaths that hung about their hips. The soldiers stood facing each other. The first combatant lifted his blade high above his broad shoulders exposing his rib cage. He angled his body so as to make himself as small as possible behind his circular shield.

His guard is too high, Preston thought.

The second warrior held his steel directly in front of his shield. He set his stocky frame shoulders-width apart baring the fullness of his chest to his opponent.

He is too cocky.

Preston stood in their midst. “The fight will continue until the first stain of red falls on this dust.” Both men nodded their head without moving any other muscle. “Begin!”

The crowd of men circled around the contestants cheering with bloodlust.

The two warriors circled each other, evaluating the other. The tall soldier kicked a few small pebbles toward his opponent.

Don’t take the bait, Preston coached in his head.

When he didn’t react, the first soldier moved in closer.

Well done.

Dust filled his nostrils. The must made it difficult to breathe, but he refused to spend the night on the ridge.

The stocky soldier had been in this position before. The fear in his stomach was familiar, yet he knew he only narrowly escaped last time. The scar on his side was his constant reminder.

The first man attacked swinging his sword wildly overhead from side to side. The blade crashed upon his opponent’s shield.

Clang.

Rookie mistake.

The second combatant thrust his bronze disk away from him throwing off the blade. With his free hand, he swung his sword horizontally across his rival’s chest. It caused a deep gash in the breastplate.

“Good, Merek,” Preston said.

The first warrior took three considerable steps backward. Merek saw the momentary hesitation and leapt upon him. He charged forward using his shield as a weapon to cut out the man’s feet under him. The tall soldier jumped and narrowly missed the hit. Merek did not let off. He swung his sword with a strong backhand toward the other’s helmet. But he did not hit his mark for the sword was met by a shield. A terrible crash resonated throughout the arena.

“Well countered, Fendrel,” Preston coached again.

The two men returned to their circular berth neither finding the other’s weakness. The restless crowd jeered at them.

“Cowards!”

“Fight!”

How sickening! These men were unwilling to stand in combat, but all too willing to see a brother bleed. Preston spat upon the ground.

At the taunting, the two men became incensed. They no longer strategized, but instead were compelled to fight with blind aggression.

Fendrel thrust his blade forward.

Merek parried and countered.

Fendrel sidestepped and followed with a right hook catching Merek just under the bronze helmet.

Merek was taken aback. He returned the blow with one to Fendrel’s chest using his shield.

Fendrel felt the full weight of the hit as it cracked the armor along the fault that had been created earlier.

Clamors for blood rang out.

Fendrel tore off his splintered breastplate and felt the fresh breeze blow across his sweat soaked torso. The move was more psychological than physical. He continued the battle fully exposed.

Now this I have never seen before.

Swing right.

Block.

Swing left.

Block.

Swing left.

Block.

Swing overhead.

Block and reversal.

Merek tried to take advantage of the open back, but Fendrel anticipated it. He swung his broadsword behind him and felt the twang of another blade hitting it. He spun around and swung his sword in a vertical circle striking Merek’s out of his hands. It rattled into the dust beyond the crowd.

“Sword, sword. I need a sword.”

He looked around frantically for someone to provide him a weapon. But Preston barked an order.

“Sheath you swords! Neither will receive assistance from you.”

Merek was trapped. He had no way to fight. His fate was sealed.

Unless.

He made an unexpected sprint towards Fendrel and tackled him. The weight of his armor aided in taking him to the ground. He wrestled for the blade and when he couldn’t steal it, he pummeled one fist after another into his enemy’s face. A trickle of blood seeped from his mouth, and he was obviously dazed. Merek pulled himself off of his opponent and stood tall over him. The man did not move. The sergeant moved over to the men.

“Make your next move.”

“He bleeds.”

“Yet, there is still breath in his lungs.”

“You would have me kill a fellow soldier?”

“He yet breathes,” Preston said again.

“Sir, I can’t.”

“If you cannot finish an enemy when he is down, you are unfit for the Sovereign’s army. Make no mistake, your enemies will not hesitate to kill you.

As if in response, Fendrel suddenly awoke and thrust his sword through Merek’s midsection. The blade was diverted, however, by Preston so that it merely gashed his side. A stream of blood oozed onto the dirt.

“Merek, you must leave immediately for your watch on the ridge. Henry will accompany you only long enough to dress your wound. Your watch ends at dawn.”

The diminutive soldier trudged off the field followed closely by a medic. Preston turned his attention to Fendrel.

“You will accompany me to the Feast this eve. Prepare yourself with the finest garb you own. We will meet at sundown on the castle commons. The rest of you! How dare you call yourselves men, let alone soldiers. None of you had the fortitude to seek combat this day, but sought out the blood of one of your comrades. You have disgraced this company.”

He paused for effect.

“You are dismissed.”

At the command, they, in unison, pounded a fist upon their chest and grunted an “Aye, sir!”

The men dispersed and headed for the barracks across the barren field they were standing in. At the same time, another man jogged across the field towards the arena sunlight glinting off of his bronze armor.

“Sir! Captain Royce is requesting a word with you. He says he has urgent business that concerns only you.”

 “Of course he does,” he said under his breath. “Tell him I’ll report in five minutes.”

“Aye, sir,” the soldier said then ran off in the direction he had come.

Half an hour later, the captain called Preston into his office in the square, marble building across the training grounds. His demeanor was as cold as he had ever seen. The captain’s face was stone, never betraying the emotions bottled up within. As he shut the large wooden door, an ominous boom echoed throughout the grounds.

“Sergeant, have you seen the condition of your recruits?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Then why are they the sorriest waste of space in the entire realm!” the captain said, his nose almost touching Preston’s. “Isn’t your job to turn them into warriors? My God, most days all I see is recruit after recruit headed for the healing quarters. If I had half a mind, I would report you to the Lieutenant for neglect of duty!”

Preston held his tongue as he had been trained. He did not flinch but steadily returned his commander’s gaze.

“Sergeant, I am forced to conclude that this, along with the death of that woman a month ago, takes your leadership ability into serious question.”

Preston cringed at the thought of that poor woman. Though he had dealt swiftly with the offenders, the situation had haunted him ever since.

“And possibly your loyalty,” he added, squaring his eyes at the sergeant. Preston clenched his fists until drops of blood appeared. No one had ever questioned his allegiance before.

Captain Royce took a long while to take in the moment. He did not speak, but rather bored his eyes into Preston. It was as if the moment he had waited so long for had arrived.

“Fortunately for you, those above me do not have the same concerns. You have been given an assignment,” the captain spoke suddenly, his voice echoing off the solid walls. “Lord Elton sent a priceless treasure, which had been in his family for three hundred years, to Lord Dawson for safe keeping during the Great War. The dagger has been a family heirloom for three hundred years. Lord Dawson was returning it when his envoy was attacked. Now, it has gone missing. In two days, you are to take a company of two of your most trusted men and return it safely to the Sovereign. The attack occurred at the crossroads near Rindland.”

“Understood, sir” Preston said.

“One more thing, sergeant.” The words nearly spit out of the captain’s mouth. “Fail, and I will personally see to it that you are stripped of your title and honor and removed from this army.”

“Understood,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Dismissed.”

Preston made an about face and walked out of the small room letting the door slam behind him.

The Awakening: Chapter 1, Part 2

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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.

The Awakening: Chapter 1, Part 1

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

CHAPTER 1

The young man whistled and a team of oxen began to move forward once more. These large animals lurched forward and snorted, their forked hooves stamping hard into the dry earth kicking up clouds of bellowing dust. The must from the dirt wafted into the lad’s nostrils as he maneuvered the weather beaten plow through the dirt. The uneven, rocky ground caused him to stumble often. It wasn’t long before his mind began to drift in the usual way it did when he was forced to work on his uncle’s land. In a week, he would be turning twenty, but birthdays usually weren’t made much of in his family. For some reason this one felt different. He could not quite understand why he felt this way. He thought perhaps it could be due to the reoccurring dream he had been having.

Much of the dream eluded the young man, but he could recall a field of grass surrounded by an enveloping darkness. He could remember a lone, sinister hooded figure glaring at him from a distance. And he could only vaguely recollect some horrifying feeling of being burned alive by a deep mist. He would awaken to find both him and the bed soaked in sweat. It seemed that at least once a week this same dream continued to jostle him out of his bed.

The young man began to think about it again as he guided the plow through the dirt, sweat beading upon his brow from the merciless sun. He remembered that it had seemed so much more vivid this time. He looked ahead and saw the turn he was going to force the two oxen to make. Fatigue was already setting in after this long day in the fields. He waited until the right moment allowing the two animals to pull the metal through the rough dirt. The animals crossed the line of the field, and the lad pulled back on the yoke against their strength. Suddenly, they brayed loudly and came to a halt. The young man heard a loud crack, and the leather strap connecting the oxen to the plow flew past his bronze colored head whipping him in the process. Picking himself up from the half-plowed field, a copper taste settled on his tongue. He spat and spots of red liquid spray the ground. Wiping his mouth, he walked around to the front of the plow. As he stepped closer toward the animals, he noticed a frayed piece of leather trailing from the harness surrounding the left ox.

“Broken again,” he muttered. He wrapped the leather strap around his tanned arm and looked toward the sun. The work in these fields had sculpted his body, his shoulders and arms well chiseled from the constant guiding of the oxen. He was tall with light brown hair that matched his skin and his face held the look of a boy not yet a man. When he turned to walk towards the barn, he looked down at the broken piece of leather and shook his head. “Uncle is not going to be happy, Octavius.”

The barn stood tall overlooking the south side of the farm. It was one of the sturdiest barns in the county when it was built, but after years of weathering and time, the barn began to show its age. The north side was patched over with new planks of wood to cover up a hole one of the horses kicked in years ago. Along the west side was a pair of blackened wood panels from a lightning fire three years earlier. Uncle Mordecai had been quick on his feet and extinguished the fire with quick resolve. The rest of the barn still had a tough, noble look about it much like the Lord who owned it.

According to the storytellers, Lord Malchus was a rarity in a time when Lords and Ladies treated their tenants no better than slaves. He inherited his title from his father who had inherited it from his father and so on for as long as the histories had been recorded. Malchus had been taught as a young boy that every life was precious, even those of the people who were placed under his authority, and since God saw fit to give him authority, Malchus seemed to wield it with caution and reverence. In doing so, he treated his tenants as near equals to himself. He never taxed them more than what their due was, and also gave generously to reward their loyalty. Twice a year, he would hold a festival to celebrate the harvest. If Malchus had been Sovereign, the realm would be one full of loyal, prosperous, free men. The young man had never met Lord Malchus, but all this he had learned from the passing merchants and bards who came to the harvest festivals. They exchanged information for a price, and the lad often sat near the crowds to overhear their stories.

As the young man entered the barn, a horse snickered alerting Mordecai of his presence. He turned around with a sneer.

“Octavius snapped his harness again,” he said dryly holding out the piece of leather.

“We just replaced it earlier this year!” said Mordecai.

He snatched the broken leather from the lad’s hand taking a long gaze at the cut on his lip which still bled. He turned it over in his hand as though he were trying to incinerate it with his powerful, dark eyes. After a long while he looked up. “Well, I don’t know if it’s really worth fixing again, but we need to get the crops planted this week. The weather has already begun to change, and rain will be coming soon. If we don’t get those seeds planted–”

“Before the first rain, we might as well never plant them,” the young man broke in finishing the phrase he had heard time and again. “I know, uncle.”

“Well, no sense in replacing it today; the day’s almost finished. How about you pen up the oxen then go ahead and start supper. I’ll finish up here.”

The young man strode back out into the fading sunlight relieved at how well his uncle had taken the news. He looked across the half-plowed field and watched as the sun began its slow descent toward the horizon’s edge. He knew dusk would be coming in a few hours. The view of the farm near sunset always enthralled him. It made him feel as though his soul was at rest. He would often find himself watching the shadows lengthen across the fields as he pondered what it must be like in other parts of the world. Though he loved the farm, he had always longed to travel about and see the many parts of the kingdom and beyond. What lay outside the bounds of the kingdom? Has anyone mapped it yet? The young man pondered.

He moved slowly towards the low stone wall that encircled the farm without realizing. He was being drawn to it and the outside world. He kept his eyes fixed on the sun in the west. The trees which stood just outside the stone wall created a barrier for any passerby to see onto the farm, but the lad knew that there were certain spots within the wall of leaves that allowed him to peer out onto the hills of grass beyond the borders of their land. As he neared the wall, the aroma of dry leaves floated on the breeze. The sun disappeared behind the trees casting a cool shadow on his face. He finally realized that he was no longer adhering to his duties, but at the moment it did not matter to him. He was following his longing to take in the scene. He walked beside the wall looking for his secret gazing spot among the trees. He stopped to admire the low light dancing on the golden hills. An easy breeze blew making the grass wave in the sun. In the distance he could see the hills give way to a massive range of mountains they called simply the Western Mountains. Camsbury lay in a valley surrounded by vast mountains to the west, north, and east. Their soaring peaks were beginning to veil the orange glow of the sun.

“Landon! Have you penned the oxen yet?” a cry came from over his left shoulder breaking him of his trance.

“I’m on my way now.”

He took one last long look at the sun that dipped behind the purple crest and breathed in the freedom then he turned his back on the majesty of the sunset. Glancing at the fields, Landon gazed upon the dry earth he had only partially plowed. A drought had settled in over the region for months now, and it was taking its toll upon the farm. He and Mordecai knew the drought was the real reason for the broken harness, but they were convinced rain was coming. Mordecai’s weather journals indicated a rain within the next three days, which put pressure on the two of them to repair the harness and finish their work. If they plowed the field in time, they would corner the market when it came to selling goods. A trip to town was sure to take one day out of the equation. That left two days to plow and plant. There should be enough time, but there was no room for error. The field always took one day to plow and one day to plant. But if the rains came early, their window of opportunity would be lost.

Landon reached the plow and unbuckled the rest of the harness from the two animals. The broken strap snagged on a piece of metal as the two oxen tried to emerge from beneath the yoke. They pulled against the metal tightening the leather. He had already received one cut from this thing; he really didn’t want another. As the brutes struggled to get free, a piece of the leather snapped off causing Landon to flinch. Luckily, this also loosened the knot around the jagged metal, and he was able to completely remove the strap. The reigns rattled as the two beasts shook themselves free and trotted towards their pen. Landon shakily walked behind them guiding when needed. As soon as they were well inside the fence, Landon locked the gate, and turned towards the farmhouse to wash up.

Part 2

The Awakening: Prologue

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