Monday, February 11, 2008

Chapter 5: Buried in the Sand

        Caden and Rilyn walked for the rest of the night. Caden never rode Starlight. They reached the highway by sunrise. The road to Erdon was marked by an old well next to a log lean-to and trough. Caden drew water from the well and filled the trough. He let Starlight drink while he sat in the lean-to.

        "Planning on taking a break already?"
        "No," Caden said.
        "Just asking," said Rilyn. "Because when I ran away from home, I went more then a couple of hours away."
        "This is the farthest I've ever traveled from my home."
        "So what?" Rilyn dropped the bucket into the well. "Eric told me you wanted to leave that town."
        "Hey! Do you even remember what it was like to leave your home for the first time?"
        "Yeah." Rilyn pulled the rope and hauled the full bucket out. "It was a month ago. And I haven't looked back." He carried the bucket to Caden. "Like you, staying home meant death."
        "I'm not going die if I stay in Erdon."
        "You're not?"
        "No!" Caden yelled.
        "Staying put, delivering bread every morning, getting married and raising a home," said Rilyn. "While every year, the Dragon Knights come, and choose people, but never you? Watching the people you know, leave you behind and live the life you dream of?"
        Caden looked at the bucket in Rilyn's hands.
        "There are ways of dying that don't leave you buried in the sand."
        "I will join the Dragon Knights," Caden said. He looked Rilyn in the eyes.
        "Not like that you won't." Rilyn set the bucket down. "Unless you want to be buried in the sand, get that sword of yours off the horse."
        Caden looked down the road, back to Erdon. Rilyn picked up the bucket and threw the water on Caden. "What?" Caden shook his head.
        "I said, get your sword and..."
        Caden ran at Rilyn. He threw a punch with all of his strength. Rilyn stepped to the side. Caden's punch missed. It passed by Rilyn's ear. Rilyn's elbow hit Caden in the solar plexus while he drew a dirk. He put the tip against Caden's neck.
        "As I said, you'll be buried in the sand." Rilyn put his dagger away. "Your Mayor charged me with making sure that doesn't happen."

        When they started, Caden couldn't lift the stone sword. When they finished, Caden couldn't lift his own arms. He laid on his back in front of the lean-to. He stared at the light filtering through the trees.
        Rilyn looked at his stone sword. "I could break this thing," he said. "Then you'll have a better chance of clubbing someone with it."
        "No. I can use it. I saved the children."
        "From a grumpy, moldy old man," Rilyn said, "in robes. That's hardly proof of your prowess against a trained fighter. This thing is going to get you killed."
        Caden sat up. "Don't doubt me. I was able to lift it in one hand."
        Rilyn looked at Caden's skinny arms. "I doubt that." Rilyn opened Caden's knapsack and took out two loaves. He tossed one to Caden. "Eat, drink, then we need to get moving." Rilyn broke the hard outer crust.
        "Wait." Rilyn looked at Caden. "Switch loaves."
        Rilyn looked at the two loaves. His was darker. He thought it was over cooked and burnt a little. He shrugged and swapped loaves with Caden. He broke the lighter loaf in half and bit into the meaty filling. He cringed and puckered at the taste. It was the most sour thing he ever put into his mouth. And there was a lingering taste of something he never had before. He looked at the bread, it was dotted with green specks.
        Caden laughed. "You're really not from around here," he said. "Don't worry, I don't care for the sour seaweed stew either." He broke open his bread and took a big bite. "Now the sweet honey stew is to die for." Bits of food flew from his mouth as he talked. He picked up his knapsack. "Next time, don't take my food without asking."
        Rilyn smiled. He watched Caden untie the horse and lead it out onto the highway. He looked down at the disgusting bread. He took another bite and forced himself to eat it while following Caden.

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