Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chapter 2: Three return, and three depart

        Everyone gathered in the town square. In the center, parked next to the fountain, were the Dragon Knights. Four had large shields that reached from their shoulders to their ankles. The shields bore the Dragon Knight coat of arms, a Serpent, coiled around a sword. It's mouth wide and striking at the tip. Their breast plates shone on top of the black chain mail underneath. The fifth was a general, he wore a red cape with a silver dragon clasp, concealing his armor and weapons. 

        The general stepped in front of the crowd. "All able bodied men, over 17 harvests, step forward and line up."
        Men kissed their wives and loved ones as they walked forward. Caden's father left his side to join the line of men. Caden waited in the crowd, then rushed forward to join the line. His father looked down at him. 
"What are you doing?" he asked.
        "I'm joining them."
        "You're too young, now get..."
        "No talking in the ranks," yelled one of the Knights. "You shall remain quite, until such a time as the general speaks to you."
        Caden's father looked down at him, and scowled. Caden smiled and stood straight and rigid.
        The general walked down the row of men, inspecting each one and dismissing him. He stopped in front of Caden's father. "You're too old. You're excused." He returned to the crowd as the general looked down at Caden. "How old are you."
        "17 harvests sir."
        Two swords swept out from under the general's cape. Crossed right above the handle, their edges rested on opposite sides of Caden's neck. "In the Dragon Knights, lying to a general is punishable by immediate execution." Caden swallows. The swords cut into his neck. A trickle of blood ran down his shirt. "Care to answer again?"
        "17 harvests."
        "Good thing you're not a Dragon Knight." The swords disappear under the general's cape. "You're too young. Dismissed."
        "I can fight. I've been..."
        "You got guts kid." The general smiled. "But it takes a lot more then that to survive out there. Go home." 
        The general walked down the line, dismissing more men. He accepted two before he reached Damion. He looked at the carved sword under his belt. "What? Are you a kid? Playing with a toy sword?"
        "No, I've been training."
        "Have you now?" The general leaned in close, "And what good will knowing how to swing around a stick do for you?"
        "Try me, and you'll see." Damion smirked at him.
        The general stood up. "Jonas, show this boy why we only train with real swords."
        Jonas stepped forward and drew his sword. Damion did the same. The stared at each other. Finally Jonas charged and attacked. Damion blocked every strike, and pieces of his sword were cut off. Jonas struck at his head. Damion stepped aside and struck his sword against Jonas's. The sword cut off the tip leaving a sharp stake. Damion put his shoulder into the shield and knocked Jonas to the ground. Damion landed on him, pinning him under the shield. He placed the stake at Jonas's neck.
        The general laughed. "Okay, you can come." He turned to the crowd. "Everyone else, you're excused."
        The crowd departed and returned to their lives. Damion waved to Caden as he joined the Knights by their wagon. Harron walked up to his son and shook his hand. "I'm proud of you, boy."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chapter 2: Bring out your dead

        Caden was walking away from the woodcutter, when he heard the dull clang of an iron bell. He looked down the street and saw everyone stopping their business. With each clang, more people froze and turned away from the street.

        Caden turned away. He didn't need to look when the wagon rolled behind him. He knew who they were, and why they had come. "That's why you should give up your dreams," said Sir Eric. Caden looked up. Sir Eric was walking to the Tavern, in complete disrespect to the dead Dragon Knights of Erdon village being escorted to the Temple. The stranger was following him, leaning on a crutch. He wore a brown poncho with a collar that stood up, covering half of his face. A wide brimmed hat sat on his fiery red hair. Caden had never seen red hair before.
        He turned back and lowered his head. He still wanted to join them, and that meant always respecting their traditions. He stood and waited. Listening to the repeating clang. Waiting for it to fade, and eventually stop when they reached the temple. He waited with everyone in town, except for Sir Eric and the stranger.

        As the market returned to normal, Caden ran through the streets to catch up with Sir Eric and the stranger. A hard object struck his ankle. He fell to the ground hard, his face sliding into the dirt. He looked up to see Damion, Harron's eldest. "What was that for?"
        "I need a sparing partner, I don't want to end up like those stiffs at the temple." Damion bounced a wooden sword on his shoulder. It was carved to look like the Dragon Knights' swords, five hands long, straight, single edge, and no handguard. "If I look good enough, maybe the knights will take me with them. And who to look better next to then a scrawny kid."
        "Not now Damion." Caden stood up. "I'm trying to figure out who the stranger is."
       "They're called the Dragon Knights. Maybe you've heard of them? Defenders of the kingdom, slayers of dragons?"
       "Not them." Caden ran off, leaving Damion to stare after him.

        Caden leaned in close to the chimney. He could hear Sir Eric's voice drifting up from his usual table next to the fireplace.
        "... you should tell your people your name is Rilyn. It won't sound as foreign to them," Sir Eric's voice drifted up the chimney.
        "Why are you helping me?" asked Rilyn.
       "I owe it to your family."
        "I don't have a family... not anymore.
       "Trust me, I know all about..."
       "Caden!" yelled his father. "Get down from there. The town is gathering in the square."
        Caden climbed off the roof. He knew one thing, the stranger and Sir Eric wouldn't be gathering.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chapter 2: The daily grind

       Caden woke up early. His father kicked him in the side. "Come on, boy," he said, "you're in my way." Caden rolled over and crawled away from the stone oven. "Why don't you ever sleep in your own room." He loaded more wood and stoked the fires.

       "It's warmer in the kitchen." 
        "Well, get cleaned up. You're going to have deliveries to make."
        Caden stood up and walked outside. He pulled a bucket of water from the well. He washed his face with the cold water, and used the bottom of his shirt to dry off. As he rubbed his face, he remembered the stranger in Sir Eric's boat.

        The morning baking was done by sunrise. Caden returned to the kitchen to pick up the fresh baked goods. His father's apprentice, Sam, handed him two butter rolls for breakfast. "Okay, listen," his father said. "Take the meat pies and honey loaves to the tavern, the..."
        "I know," Caden interupted. "It's the same every morning."
        "Well, I have to tell you again. Valron came by yesterday and said he didn't get his breakfast delivered." His father wiped flour off his hands. "Now, the meat pies..."
        Grumpy old Valron, Caden thought. His apprentice probably brought them to his study and he forgot them in there. Caden looked Sam rolling out the dough. Maybe if he delivered to Sir Eric last, he could meet the stranger.
        "Now after you make the deliveries, go to the market. Get two fish for dinner," Caden cringed at the mention of fish, "and a bushel of potatoes. Oh, and Harron said his daughter was going to be in town today with fresh cream and butter. Don't leave it in the kitchen this time, take it down to the cellar. I also need you to..."
         Keilee is going to be in town! I wonder if she'll go to the town social with me.
       "You got all that?" 
       "Yeah, yeah." Caden grabbed the two sacks, swung them over his shoulder,  and lifted the large basket under his arm. He walked out the door. Sam looked at him and smiled.

        Caden walked through the town square. Both sacs were empty and rested in the basket next to the oat bread for Sir Eric. The ground around his feet swelled up and engulfed his legs to the knees. "Caden!" yelled Valron. "Where's my breakfast?"
       "I just gave it to your apprentice." 
       "It's late," Valron walked up and stood in front of Caden. "I want my breakfast an hour after sunrise."
       "Your manor is on the other side of town." Caden struggled against the earthen embrace. "I have other deliveries before you."
       Valron raised his hand, and the ruby on his ring glowed with fire.
        "Now let me go. I'm not done yet."
       "Your father will hear about this." Valron waved his hand. The earth and stone crumbled away from Caden's legs. Caden ran off.
        Freak. Caden stopped running and looked where the sun was. How long is an hour anyway?

         When Caden got out to Sir Eric's house, he could see movement through Sir Eric's bedroom window. "Sir Eric," Caden called. "I got your order." Caden waited till Sir Eric answered the door. He looked up and saw someone looking out the window.
         Sir Eric opened the door. He had a straight slice across his unshaven cheek. He was holding a rag up to stop the bleeding.
        "How'd you cut yourself?"
        "Shaving." Sir Eric took his bread from the basket. He went back inside. He looked at Caden as he closed the door. "Do you need anything else?"
        Caden moved to see inside. "Well..." I can't ask about the stranger, he'll know I followed him last night.
       "Then go home. I'm busy." Sir Eric closed the door.
        Caden walked away. He looked up and saw the stranger in the shadows of Sir Eric's room.

        When Caden got to the market, he walked past the fishermen. He didn't want to smell like fish when he talked with Keilee. He looked for Harron's stall and ran over to it. Mika, Harron's youngest daughter was working. She was two harvests younger then Caden. She smiled when she saw him.
        "Hey, Mika," said Caden. "Where's Keilee today?"
       "She's helping Mom spin the wool." Mika twisted her toe into the ground. "Hey, Caden, do you..."
       "I'm kind of in a hurry today," Caden interupted. "Can you just give me a stone of butter and a cask of cream?"
        "Sure." Mika turned around and fetched Caden's request.
       Caden took the butter and cream and walked to the fishermen. He looked around the stalls. He knew his father wanted something else, but nothing looked right.

        Caden opened the cellar doors. "Caden, bring the cheese into the kitchen." His father yelled. Caden cringed. He put the butter, cream and fish away, before going into the kitchen.
        "Hey, sorry." Caden said. Sam looked at him. "They didn't have the right kind of cheese today." Sam shook her head and smiled.
        His father scratched his beard. "I'll have to give the Mayor something else then." He threw the dough to Sam. "See if you can make something else with that. So when did the woodcutter say he was coming by?"
       "Woodcutter?" Caden looked at Sam. She cringed and drew a spoon across her neck. "You know... He didn't say. I'll just run back and ask him." Caden ran out the door.
       His father looked at Sam. She started beating the dough with her spoon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chapter 1: The fires of the past

       Caden loved to listen to Eric's stories. It's possible he was the only one in town. Caden only lived for 15 harvests, and was not allowed in the tavern. Instead, he sat on the roof by the chimney, and listened to the stories drift up with the heat and smoke. Caden knew Sir Eric's warnings against the Dragon Knights, but he didn't care.

     To him, the Dragon Knights were adventure, travel to the foreign lands. Protecting border towns from the pirates of the Starcia Desert, and defending the elves in the east from the troll armies. Most importantly, Caden wanted to fulfill the sacred duty of the Five Great Sages.
      Five millenia ago, the Five sacrificed their lives to seal away the Dragon Queen. Their sacrifice was the birth of their great kingdom, and the Dragon Knights served to ensure the dragons would never return.
     That night, as Caden watched Eric stumble home, he saw the forest near Eric's homestead glowing orange-red from a great fire. He climbed off the roof and followed Sir Eric.

     Sir Eric, not nearly drunk as he wanted to be, traveled home, so he could continue his drinking alone. He saw the fire in the forest. The river would protect his land, yet the red glow of the moon was an omen he couldn't ignore.
     He altered his course to take him to his dock and small boat. He didn't see Caden watching him paddle across the river to investigate the blaze.


In the Pyoksan Mountains, the people are wealthy. They had the richest mines of gold and iron in the Kingdom, and would never leave their homes. The Dragon Knights patrolled the passes and valleys of the mountains, to protect the locals from the Starcia Pirates.
    Sir Eric marched for days in those mountains, with no warning of when an attack might come. The pirates flew in on their mechanical dragons, and dropped firebombs from the sky. The fire was horrible, hot enough to melt your armor into your skin. Sir Eric was cursed to hear the screams, smell the burning flesh, forever at his side. In the flames of the forest, he saw his friends being consumed.
     Yet it is not the flames that woke him up in the night. It was the prisoners the Dragon Knights captured. They were the ones who haunted his dreams. They were the ones that Sir Eric tried to drown in an endless tide of ale and shine.


     Caden watched the river for Eric's return. When he came back from the other side, he had someone else in his boat. The stranger's body and clothes were burnt, and Sir Eric carried him with care. Caden moved in closer, trying to see who the stranger was. 
     Eric carried him to his homestead, and went inside. Caden watched Eric house. Shadows moved past windows, but Eric never lit a light. Caden sat in the bushes and shivered. The full moon lit up the clearing around the house. Caden couldn't get any closer and was cold.
       Caden returned to town and entered the bakery. He did his chores, cleaned the kitchen, and went to sleep next to the cooling ovens.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


       Sir Eric was a retired Dragon Knight. His face and arms had many scars from his time with the Dragon Knights. His dark brown hair was ragged and his face unshaven. He returned to Erdon after being injured serving the king. He spent his nights drinking alone in his Homestead, a small under developed plot of land in the forests outside of town. When he came into town, he would visit the tavern and drink.
       That night, he was sitting with his older brother, Harron. When they were younger, many people said they looked like twins. Now no one would make that mistake. Harron shaved every morning, and didn't have any scars.
       The day Sir Eric turned seventeen, their lives where completely different. Harron stayed home and took over the family ranch. Sir Eric ran off to join the Dragon Knights. When Eric returned, he looked old and tired. At 50, Harron still looked young and strong.
       Eric was telling his brother a story about his time with the Dragon Knights.

       "A wind swept across the valley. By the time we got there, everything was gone. Can you still save it, when there is nothing left to save? Do the trees return to salted soil; can fish swim in streams turned red?
     "Elves restore life to the forests. Fairies make wild flowers grow as they fly past. The Goddess in heaven weeps at such devastation. Hell cries out its triumph, as rocks split under the heat.
     "In the middle of the fire and smoke, a village still burned. Just as we thought nothing survived, we saw children amidst the ash. Kids, still alive, against destruction so complete. Life lives amongst death.
       "Our horses still refused to enter the valley, despite their rigorous training. So clear now, that they knew something that we did not. We thought the stench of those consumed by the flame was what kept the horses at bay.
       "My men and I rushed down the valley slope. Only burning coals marked our path. Our boots kicked up sparks and embers as we passed. We were being hasty. "How could they have lived?" asked my men. Until it was too late, we thought we were safe.
      "Valiant as my men were, we were unprepared for the danger that waited in the ash. When it rose and emerged from the smoke, we were caught unaware. 'Xactly what it was, I cannot say. Years in the field, I saw nothing like it, eyes burning like the fires of hell. Zachery was the first to fall, the rest soon followed; I was the only one to escape the valley alive."

     Sir Eric drained his mug. His brow glowed in the light of the grand fire place.
     "Sounds like a dragon to me," Harron said. "Isn't that what you were trained to fight."
     "This was no dragon."
     "Still doesn't concern us." Harron stood, and left his coin on the table. "Nothing like that will ever reach our village."
     "Mark my words," Eric said, "if you let your boy join the Dragon Knights, he will suffer this fate, or one far worse."
     "Blasphemy. It is an honor to serve the Knights, and carry on the work of the Five Great Sages." Harron left the tavern.
      Sir Eric looked for another to tell his warnings to, and buy him another drink. No one else wanted to hear his tales. No one would listen to his heresy. Eric stood and stumbled out the door.