Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chapter 11-4: Can't return home

        Caden left the tavern. He smiled and whistled the whole way home. As he approached the bakery, he was greeted by the warm, sweet smell of baking oats. His trip to the tavern gave him a new look on the town. He wondered why he felt such a strong desire to leave.

        He walked into the warm kitchen. He looked around, Sam was eagerly working to fulfill all of the Kitchen duties. Caden looked around at the kitchen, it seemed empty. He turned to Sam. "Sam?" Caden asked. "Where's my father?"
        Sam set down the dough she was working on. "I don't know how to tell you this," she said. "I've been trying to avoid it." 
        "What aren't you telling me?"
        "When you left, your father was worried."
        "I would have thought he'd be angry."
        "No, I think he knew you were going to go," she said. "The next day, he packed up and went looking for you."
        "He said that if he didn't catch you by the time he reached Tinate, he would send word." Sam checked on the bread in the ovens. Caden helped her rotate the loafs. "I was worried when I didn't hear from him. But then you came home injured, and he was still gone."
        "So what happened to him?"
        "No one knows." Caden ran out the back door. "Caden, wait!" Sam called. She followed him out. 
        Outside, Caden ran into Rilyn sitting by the well. "When I heard about your father, I knew you'd try and do something stupid."
        "I need to leave, Rilyn. You're not going to stop me." Caden walked to the stable.
        Rilyn tripped Caden. He landed with his face in the mud. "You got lucky the last time. I really don't want you to come back to Erdon in a box next time."
        Caden pushed himself up and knelt in front of the well. "What's your plan?"
        "Give me one month. After that, we can set out again." Rilyn looked at Sam standing in the door. "Or you can leave..." Rilyn pointed at Sam. Caden looked back at her. "And maybe never come home."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chapter 11-3: The Market

        Caden left Sir Eric's homestead. He was upset. He was going to head home to the bakery, but didn't want to anymore. So he wandered through the market. He didn't know where he wanted to go. Everyone was trying to go back to business as normal. But the town was still scarred from the Queen's attack. Many buildings hadn't been repaired at all. Hollow ruins, devoid of life. Others still had people working to rebuild. The sound of hammers and saws echoed behind the murmer of merchants selling and people buying.

        Caden saw Haron's stall was open. He remembered how he used to go there every day to see if Keilee was working. But he knew that she wouldn't be there, she was gone. Alone in some far off land and he couldn't do anything to bring her back. He crossed the street to avoid it. He walked over one of the bridges spanning the hallows in the ground. Fish swam underneath.
        "Caden!" Mika called. "Caden over here."
        Caden looked. Mika was waving from Haron's stall. He sighed and turned back. He walked over to her. "Morning, Mika," he said.
        Mika smiled. "Did you meet the Dragon Knights? Did you see my brother? Is he going to rescue Keilee?"
        Caden forced a smile. "Of course I found them. I didn't see Damion, but I talked with his general. I'm sure once he hears of what happened here, he'll be the first to sign up to rescue her."
        "Dad says that we shouldn't expect her to come back. He even made a grave shrine for her on our land."
        "Do you believe she's okay?"
        "I know she is."
        "So do I."
        "Things haven't been the same since that day." Mika dropped her head and looked at the dirt road.
        "What do you mean?"
        "Dad, he's been drinking more then uncle Eric lately," she said. "And he gets really angry a lot." Mika started crying.
        Caden looked at her. He noticed an old bruise under her sleeve. It was green and purple. "Hey, it'll be okay," He said. He lifted her chin. Her eyes were red. "Once Keilee returns, everything will be back to normal."
        Mika hugged Caden. He stood there, and she held him. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.
        "Everything will be okay," he said. "I'll bring Keilee back... I promise."

        Caden left Mika to her work. His mind focused on his promise, and trying to find a way to help poor Mika. He was so tied with his thoughts, he didn't hear someone calling his name. he stopped when he felt a tug on the back of his shirt. He turned around and saw a little boy holding onto him. He smiled, it was one of the children he saved. He looked around, and a couple of the other kids were there too, but stood back.
        "Caden," he said. "I heard you was eaten by the dwagon."
        Caden knelt down. "No, why would you think that?"
        "You was gone so long, and when you came back, you was hurt bad."
        "Well, it wasn't a dragon," Caden said. "And you don't need to worry about me. When I see dragons, I slay them and skin their hides for my clothes."
        "You saw a dwagon!" he said.
        "Yeah--" Caden scratched his head "--and it was fierce. It wasn't as big as the Queen, but still huge. It had fangs as long as my hand." Caden held up his hand in front of the boy, it covered his face. "That's bigger then your head!"
        "Wow!" The other children gathered around Caden. "Wasn't you scared?"
        "No way. I wasn't afraid in front of the Dragon Queen, and this was just a pup. Plus I had that sacred sword from the temple."
        "The green and black one?"
        "Yeah, you remember it. That sword is magical, and I was able to take down that dragon with just one hit."
        "What else have you done?" a little girl asked.
        "Well, I faced a witch down, stood in testimony before the goddess, defeated some bandits..."
        "You're so strong," said the little girl.
        "I'll say." Caden turned around. The barkeep from the tavern was standing behind him. Caden didn't even notice he was sitting in front of it. After it was rebuilt it looked completely different. The place he used to climb to the roof was gone, and it looked bigger. The courtyard wall was rebuilt with an arch over the hallow the Queen left. "Come inside. Why don't you tell us about your travels."
        "I thought I was too young."
        "My boy--" he put a hand on Caden's back, "--if you can travel across the province, track down the Knight's camp, and survive a sword fight, then you're old enough to come inside."
        Caden smiled. He waved to the children as he walked into the tavern for the first time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chapter 11-2: Sir Eric

        Caden finished every delivery except Sir Eric's. He carried the basket, empty sacks and two loaves of oat bread. He felt better, and regretted spending two weeks in bed. Even now he wondered how close the Dragon Knights were to rescuing Keilee.

        Sir Eric's homestead looked the same as it always did. Caden knocked on the door. Sir Eric opened the door. He wore a simple white shirt, brown pants and leather brace over his missing shoulder. Caden stared at the wound.
        "Caden?" Sir Eric said. "So you're not dead after all."
        "No, Sir."
        Sir Eric took his bread from the basket. "So how did your quest go?"
        "I made it to the Dragon Knight training camp, and now I need your help."
        "I can join the Dragon Knights to save Keilee, if I'm not to late already," Caden said. "But first I need to slay five dragons. Can you help me?"
        Sir Eric sighed. He stepped aside and held the door open. "You better come in."
        Caden smiled and stepped into the house. Sir Eric closed the door, and motioned for Caden to sit at a table. He walked into the kitchen. Caden sat in the small room. He had never been inside Sir Eric's home before. He looked at the bearskins on the floor, and the deer antlers on the wall over the fireplace. Caden smiled when he saw through an open door. Sir Eric's Dragon Knight armor was displayed in a small shrine in the next room, exactly how it should be. 
        Caden stood up and walked into the next room. In the center of the far wall, was Sir Eric's armor. Spread out on shelves were weapons, broken bits of war machines, statues, and other trinkets collected from the battle field. Everything Sir Eric ever did, and was ever honored for was on display in this room. A museum to his service for the dragon knights.
        Caden walked around the room. He wondered what part of a dragon would he find. What part is considered a trophy. The heads would be too big to be put on display. Looked for a fang, or a talon, or even a scale. While he looked for the dragon trophies, he stopped on a weapon. A sword, that looked exactly like Rilyn's. Caden picked it off of the shelf and looked at the half sun engravings.
        Caden heard a shatter come from the kitchen. He returned the curved sword to it's place on the shelf and went to the kitchen. He found Sir Eric picking up a broken tea cup. Caden helped him clean up. He took the tray of tea out to the main room and set it down.
        Sir Eric came out with a new tea cup. "Caden, I'm going to make this as clear as I can." He set the tea cup down on the table. Caden served the tea. "Before the Dragon Queen attacked Erdon, I didn't believe dragons existed."
        "What do you mean?" Caden placed a cup in front of Sir Eric. "You've been trained to fight dragons, how could you not believe in them?"
        Eric shook his head. "I was never trained to fight dragons," he said. "I was trained to fight people."
        "You mean trolls and gremlins."
        "No, though they are closer to people then you might think. I was trained to fight people, like you, me or the mayor. We're never taught anything about dragons."
        "So you were part of a special squad? Others specialized in dragons."
        "No. None of us were."
        "But the general, he said his best dragon trackers wou..."
        Sir Eric slammed his fist into the table. His tea cup tipped over. "You're not listening to me. There are no dragon trackers, no dragon slayers." Caden watched the tea run across the rough wood table and drip onto the floor. "We got hundreds of 'dragon sightings' every moon. Yet not a single one ever turned out to be anything more then a rumor. The dragon knights don't investigate most of them anymore. The general probably thought that you made to story up to join even after he turned you down."
        "But he said..."
        "He lied, Caden. He told you what you wanted to hear so you would leave. No one is looking for the Queen, no one is going after Keilee."
        "The Queen, it's attacked other temples. When more reports about her come in, then..."
        "No, they'll go to the closest Dragon Knight camp. And they will be ignored. No one will pass on the story, so no one will ever see any patterns."
        Caden stood up. He grabbed his basket and sacks. "You're lying. You just don't want me to join them." Caden walked to the door.
        "Believe what you will, Caden. But the only people in the world who will believe your story are right here in Erdon."
        Caden left and slammed the door. Sir Eric left the tea on the table. He went into the kitchen and fetched a bottle of shine.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chapter 11-1: A New Day

        When the sun rose the next day, Caden walked into the kitchen. Sam was busy baking. Caden looked around. Sam was baking all by herself. His father wasn't in the kitchen.

        "Hey," Caden said.
        Sam turned around, "Caden, you don't have to be up." She wiped flour off her hands with a towel. "I can take care of all this by myself."
        "I've been home for two weeks, and haven't completed the morning deliveries once." Caden smiled. "My father must be tired of listening to Valron complain by now."
        "Yeah, Valron..." Sam placed several lumps of dough on a large wooden paddle. She loaded them into the stone oven and pumped the bellows. She used the wooden paddle to turn other loaves. She removed other loaves that looked done. She tapped on the crust and listened to the echo. "Okay, Caden. These are the last loaves for the morning baking." She buttered the crust and moved them to a basket. "Do I need to tell you where everything goes?"
        Caden laughed. "No, I think I can remember everything. Need anything from the market?"
        "No, we're good."
        Caden took the basket and two sacks, and walked out the door.
        Caden was surprised at the changes in Erdon since he left. Buildings were still being rebuilt. The hollows had simple bridges built over them. Water from the lake ran down the hollows. It felt like a new town. 
        Caden walked out to Valron's manor first. He used the heavy iron knocker to bang on the door. Valron opened the door. "Caden?" He grasped Caden by the shoulders. "It's good to see you're alright."
        "Has it been an hour?"
        "What?" Valron looked at the rising sun. "No, it hasn't. You're on right on time." He smiled.
        Caden gave Valron his breakfast, and left. As he walked through town to his next delivery, he smiled and whistled.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chapter 10: Confession

        Father Achilleos came in with Caden's lunch. Caden smiled. "Thanks for visiting me."

        "I hear you've been getting several visitors."
        "Yeah, Rilyn came by this morning, and Su visited last night."
        "Rilyn's a good kid, and likes you a lot. Be careful." Father Achilleos scratched his beard. "And Su seems quite beholden to you."
        "What do you mean?"
        "The way she shows up when you need her, then disappears again."
        "What would have happened to her?"
        "When she was on the tower?"
        "Yes," Caden said.
        "The goddess would have judged her, based on her life. If she was truly good, then she would have been set free. If her soul was tainted, then the goddess would have taken her to the world after."
        "So did I do anything standing beside her?"
        "Of course you did. Having another willing to take your punishment says a lot to the goddess. I don't know what her fate would have been, but you just may have saved her life."
        Caden took the bowl of fish broth Father Achilleos brought in. He broke pieces of bread and dropped them into the bowl. He watched them swirl around and soak up the broth.
        "Rilyn thought there was something bothering you. Can you talk to me about it?"
        "Can it be in confession?"
        "Have you ever given a confession?"
        "No." Caden shook his head.
        "Then I think now would be a good time."
        Father Achilleos sat at the foot of Caden's bed. Caden talked about everything since the party. His guilt over the children he couldn't save. How he blamed himself for not stopping Father Coteson sooner, and that it was his fault Keilee was taken. He focused on details that he left out before.
        "How does this Dark Shroud you mention make you feel?"
        "I know the goddess speaks against killing, but every time I see one of them, that's the only thing I can think of."
        "Is this what's truly bothering you?"
        "Was it wrong of me to kill Father Coteson?" Caden looked at Father Achilleos. "It didn't stop the Dragon Queen from returning."
        Father Achilleos took Caden's hand. He held as he looked into Caden's eyes. "Pray to the goddess for guidence." He removed his hand. Caden looked down. He had a black ten pointed star on his palm. The star turned in place. Five points rotated to the left, and the opposite five rotated to the right. "When this mark fades, you'll have your answer."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Chapter 10: Rilyn's Visit

        The next morning when Caden woke up, he was feeling better. He didn't feel tired, and his body didn't ache anymore. When Sam came in with breakfast, he had already washed and gotten dressed. She smiled when she saw him up and moving. She set his breakfast down on the dresser and felt his forehead and cheeks.

        "You're fever finally broke," she said.
        "Yeah," Caden said. "I feel great."
        "I'll let people know that you're feeling better. I'm sure you'll have a couple of visitors today." Sam guided Caden back to bed. "But I want you to take it easy for at least one more day."
        Caden ate his food while Sam checked his bandages.

        Caden was feeling restless. He sat in bed and stared out the window. When he got tired of sitting, he stood up and walked circles around his room. He promised Sam that he'd stay in for one more day, but he was finally feeling better, and he was anxious to get out. He wanted to leave again and find some dragons, so he could help save Keilee. 
        He looked out past the buildings, trees, and bluffs. How close were the Dragon Knights to finding the Queen? With the church reporting attacks on temples, they'd know which way she went. Once they find her, how long will it take to kill her? Caden needed to talk to Sir Eric, find out how much time he has to join them.
        It was still before lunch time when Rilyn came to visit. He opened the door and saw Caden standing by the window. He knocked. Caden turned around and saw Rilyn standing in the door frame, holding the door.
        "Hey, Rilyn," Caden said. "Come in, have a seat."
        Rilyn closed the door. "Hi. I came to see how you were feeling."
        "Really good. How long have I been in here?"
        "About two weeks. We got you home, but you had a fever," said Rilyn. "I came by a couple of times, but you were asleep or delusional."
        "I guess that explains the weird dreams."
        "If we see Su again, I need to appologize to her." Rilyn sat down on the foot of Caden's bed. "She saved your life."
        "I know, Sam told me. What happened?"
        "After you fell, I managed to stop the last two before they could attack you further. We tried to stop the bleeding but the cuts were too deep. That's when Su showed up, she just came out of the woods. She knows a lot about healing and was able to bind your wounds. If she wasn't there, you would have bled out."
        "I need to thank her it seems."
        "You'll need to find her. She disappeared again."
        "What do you mean? She was here last night."
        "I haven't seen her since we returned to Erdon."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chapter 10: First Visitor

        Caden laid in bed. He spent most of his time resting. When he was awake, it was when Sam came in to redress his wounds or help him wash. When he was asleep, he would dream of forging a chain in Tony's smithy. Sam brought him food three times a day. He wasn't always able to eat, but ate what he could.

        While Sam was cleaning his wounds and changing his bandages, she would hum. It was an old nursery rhyme. Caden tried to remember the words to it. But he couldn't. Still, thinking about the nursery rhyme kept him from thinking about Keilee. He was safe in bed, being cared for by family. She was trapped somewhere, cold and alone. He didn't want to think about it.
        His father never came in to check on him. Caden thought it was strange. He wanted to see him again. He wanted to hear his father lecture him about running away from home. But he stayed away. When Sam was there, he could see something in her eyes. She was right there, warm, smiling, and humming. But her violet eyes were distant, sad. Caden could tell that she wanted to tell him something, but didn't.
        Caden lost all sense of time, drifting in and out of sleep. Sometimes he was up and eating in the middle of the day. Other times it was the middle of the night and he just found some cold food set out next to his bed.
        Su walked into the room. Caden was asleep. She closed the door, careful to not make any sound. She kneeled down next to Caden. She held his hand. He stirred and smiled. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "Sam..." Caden mumbled.
        "Who's Sam?" Su said.
        Caden woke up. "What?"
        "You just said Sam in your sleep," she said. "Do you dream of men named Sam."
        Caden rolled over, "What? No, she's my sister," he said. He looked up and saw Su. "Su, hey!" Caden sat up. "When did you get here?"
        "I've been around."
        "Do you believe in fate?"
        Su thought about the question. "No," she said. "I think we make our own choices."
        "Of course we do," Caden said. "But if we didn't stay at the Blue Fox, we wouldn't have heard the mob. And if I didn't decide to help you in judgement, you never could have saved my life."
        Su smiled. A tear rolled down her cheek. "You saved my life, Caden. I saved yours. That's not fate. We're connected by something much greater."
        "Fate is a chain that we create with our choices," Caden said. "There's nothing more binding then that."
        Su grabbed a stool and sat down by Caden's side. She held his hand and felt his head. His forehead was burning. She blew on her finger tips and touched Caden's brow. His skin glowed blue. Caden felt a cool sensation run down his body and he fell asleep. Su stayed by his side and continued to hold his hand.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chapter 10: Home at last

        Caden woke up with the sun shining in his eyes. He felt warm soft hands moving over his stomach, followed by a slight pulling sensation on his side. He blinked and looked around. He was in his own bed, and sam was kneeling by his bed, changing a bandage over the stab on his stomach. He reached up and touched her wrist.

        Sam jumped at the touch. She looked at Caden. Her light blue hair glowed in the sunlight. She smiled at Caden. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were awake."
        Caden groaned. "Am I dead?"
        She shook her head. "No, but you were close."
        "What happened?"
        "The priest brought you home. He said you were attacked by something he called the 'Dread Knights.' You're injuries were serious, but you got lucky."
        "You saved me then?"
        Sam shook her head again. A tear ran down her cheek. "No, it was the woman you were traveling with."
        "Don't you remember? She said you were traveling together a lot, to the Dragon Knight camp and back."
        "What's her name?"
        "Suzidan. Don't you remember her?"
        "Yeah," -Caden groaned and sat up-- "we've just been separated since the Dragon Knight camp."
        "Don't move too much." Sam grabbed Caden and supported him while she adjusted the pillows to support his back. "She's still in town. I'm sure she'll come by to talk when she hears you're feeling better."
        Caden leaned against the head board. "Thanks for taking care of me."
        "Well, I haven't been able to do much. I'm not a healer like my mother." Sam took a cloth from a steaming bowl next to the bed, and started washing Caden.
        Caden just relaxed and felt her gentle hands caressing his arms and chest. After she finished giving Caden a sponge bath she helped him lay back down. Caden thought it was strange, his bed felt so familiar, yet so different. He rarely slept in his own bed, but something about being in it then just felt better then before. He couldn't understand it, but it did feel nice to be home. He could smell the baking bread coming from the kitchen. The subtle aroma of baking oats mixed with the sharp smell of rye. He looked around, Sam was gone. He didn't notice her leaving.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Chapter 9: Dreams

        Caden stood in blacksmith Tony's shop. The air was hazy and warped from the heat. The red glow and sparks from the flames surrounded him. Beyond the red light, it was all black and darkness. Sparks floated out of the coals and around the anvil like little insects.

        He remembered the Dread Knight's swords. Caden felt around his stomach and back, under his shirt and the heavy leather apron. They were gone.
        Caden put on the heavy wool glove and grabbed the tongs from the fire. He removed a piece of metal that glowed red. He set it on the anvil and grabbed the largest hammer and started hitting it. Caden never worked in a forge, and didn't know what he was doing. But it felt right to be hitting the metal. Watching the sparks fly to the floor.
        After hitting the metal for a time, he used the tongs, picked it up and looked at it. He made a square bar, about one hand long. He carried the bar over to the cooling trenches. There were two, one filled with water, the other was filled with oil. Caden looked at his reflection in both. He could see through the water, making his reflection look indistinct, uncertain. But the oil was black, and reflected a steady reflection.
         Caden dipped the hot metal into the water. Steam swirled around him. He stepped away and set his square bar down on the anvil. He took the smallest hammer and started hitting it. Before long, the bar had bent into thick chain link. Caden looked at it, small cracks covered the bend.
         The tongs were back in the fire and the hammers were put away. Caden had the link he made, but everything else was just like when he started. So he pulled out the tongs again, and started over. He did everything the same, except when he went to cool the metal. The second time he used the oil. And the finished link didn't have any cracks.
        Caden continued the repetition of making the chain. And it grew longer. Caden kept pounding at the steel and anvil. Blacksmith Tony emerged from the shadows. Caden looked up. "Tony? What am I doing here?" "You're making a chain." "But why? How did I get here?" "You died." "What?" Tony held up the chain Caden forged. "This is the chain you forged with your actions and your choices. This is your fate." "I can't die!" "Every man dies once, then faces the final Judgment before the goddess."
         The chain flew around Caden and bound him to the floor. Caden struggled against their grasp. "Fate is like a chain. It is forged by your choices, and you cannot escape the consequences of those actions."
         Tony faded away, the forge faded away, the anvil and tools faded away. Only Caden remained, bound to the floor by the chain he created. His head hung low, and he kneeled in the center of the red glow from a fire that was no longer there. He was cold.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chapter 9: The Dread Knights

        The first thing Caden saw was the black shrouds. Then from the darkness came three Dragon Knights. He tightened his grip on the stone sword. Caden looked at Rilyn. He was ready. He dropped the cane next to Father Achilleos and held his sword in one hand. Rilyn had a loose grip on the sword, it looked like it was balanced on his index finger. Father Achilleos continued to draw in his small book.

        "Don't hold it too tight," Rilyn said.
        Caden nodded. "Their not Dragon Knights, not anymore."
        "Wouldn't matter if they were."
        "This is what I first fought in the catacombs. They move slow now, but they can have bursts of speed."
        The first Knight rushed forward, Caden raised the sword and blocked the attack to his head. He brought the sword down into the Knight's arm. The bone cracked and the dead flesh ripped. It fell to the ground in a stream of straw and preservative herbs. Caden's sword completed it's swing and the tip dug into the earth.
        The second Knight charged Rilyn. He blocked repeated blows, unable to get in an attack. Caden looked for the third Knight but couldn't see him. The first Knight picked up its sword from the severed limb. Caden pulled his sword out of the ground. He felt a line of fire across his back. He fell forward and leaned on his sword. He turned around and saw the third Knight. It's sword was smeared with blood.
        Caden looked down, another sword was in his side. He looked up and saw the first Knight holding it in its left arm. Caden laughed. There was no pain. He was going to die, and he felt no pain.
        He fell to the ground. Darkness filled his vision from the corners of his eyes. He saw the third Knight standing over him, it's sword raised above it's head, the tip pointing down. He felt warm, and safe. He giggled again. Then everything was black.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chapter 9: The Road Home

        Caden and Rilyn settled their bill with the Blue Fox. True to her word, Cassy didn’t charge them for all the special food she was giving them. Caden wondered about how quickly the rumors had spread.
        Rilyn went back to the table and fetched Father Achilleos, who was finishing all of cold mugs of cinnamon tea. Caden went out the back to the courtyard where he saddled Starlight. He led the old girl out the courtyard gates.
        On the other side of the gate he saw the strange little rodent watching him. Caden stopped. The rodent stood up on it’s hind legs and twitched its nose. Caden tilted his head to the left. The rodent did the same. Caden smiled. He knelt down and stuck out his hand. The rodent ran up to him and scurried up his arm. Caden laughed as it’s little claws tickled his skin.
        Rilyn walked around to see what was taking Caden. He looked at the rodent. “That thing is going to give you a disease.”
        “You worry too much.” Caden took the rodent off of his shoulder and set it on Starlight’s saddle. “Look at it, it’s healthy.”
        Rilyn shook his head and walked away.
        They walked through the Market of Tinate and gathered supplies for the trip home. Caden took some money from Rilyn and bought ingredients to make a thank you gift for the mayor.
        Father Achilleos was an old man. He walked beside Caden and Rilyn for three hours, insisting that he was fine, but Caden saw him slowing down. They took more breaks to let him rest. Yet he refused the assistance of Starlight. Caden offered after every rest, but Father Achilleos always turned him down.
        Caden looked at Rilyn walking with his cane, and Father Achilleos leaning on the sacred staff of the Sages. He considered riding for a while, but felt guilty. Rilyn was still afraid of Starlight after the bite she gave him, but Caden couldn’t understand Father Achilleos’s reasons.
So they continued to walk, leading Starlight be the reigns. Caden thought about his father. He was going to be angry with Caden for taking the money and horse without asking. She didn’t even save them much time since there was always one person walking. At least the Mayor’s generosity kept him from spending any of his father’s money.
        As much as he regretted lying to his father, but would his father understand him leaving again? Would he agree to letting Caden leave Erdon and hunt down five dragons to prove that he was strong enough to join the quest for the Dragon Queen?
        They stopped to eat lunch next to a small brook. Caden watered the horse while Father Achilleos and Rilyn sat and talked under the shade of an old oak. Caden shivered, he felt a cold chill run up his spine. He looked around, but couldn’t see anything. He looked at the stone sword. He untied the straps holding it to the saddle and pulled it away. He lifted it in both hands then held it in one. It felt light. He walked up the bank to Rilyn.
        Rilyn was laughing at a joke Father Achilleos told him. He looked over at Caden coming back. He lifted an apple to give to Caden, then saw the stone sword. Rilyn dropped the fruit. He stood up and drew one of his swords.
        Father Achilleos looked at them. “What’s wrong?”
        “I don’t know,” Rilyn said, “and I can’t explain it. But if Caden can hold that sword, then something is wrong.”
        Caden stopped next to Rilyn. “See anything?”
        “No, you?”
        “Not yet, but I can feel it.”
        Father Achilleos watched them. He took out a small book, ink, and quill. He recorded what he saw in a simple black line sketch.
        Caden turned and pointed into the woods. A group of shadows got darker, turning almost pitchblack. Rilyn nodded. “Yeah, I see it.”