To Everna and Beyond!
The official blog and novelblog for Evernade Saga and FireHeart Saga by Andry Chang
"Come forth, Paladins! Fulfill your destiny!"
Monday, May 29, 2006
Rael’charon guessed right. Two days after the feast, after the morning audiences, Eloise comes to him for advice. Rael’charon has found some information about Robert, and he gives Eloise a ready advice.
‘Uncle Rael, two days ago I saw a boy about my age in the palace. He seems interesting, though. Is he a prince, so I can play with him? You know anything about him, uncle?’
‘Of course, Loise. His name is Robert – but unfortunately – he’s not a prince. He’s just a page under Lord Walthorn. Tell you what; you can still play with him, though.’
‘Really, uncle Rael? How?’
‘Always disguise yourself as a maid, and go to the stables. You will find him there, tending to Duke Walthorn’s horse, Paeldagrin. And never go there after two o’ clock in the afternoon, because he will be gone to the duke’s chamber – for his other duties. And you’ll be expected in the palace to do your daily lessons.’
‘Well thank you very much, uncle! You’re very resourceful, as usual!’
‘Hahaha… it’s my pleasure to help my fair princess. I’m sure you’ll be bored to death to play with the maids and an old guy like me all the time!’
‘Ew, but you’re DEFINITELY not OLD, uncle! I should’ve called you big brother if you didn’t insist!’
Rael’charon laughs amusingly. It’s no point arguing with a little princess, he thinks. Well he surely has zillions of devices to make his life interesting and fun – and makes life better for his friends, too. No wonder he’s the king’s favorite officer and can secure his position for nearly thirty years. And here’s one little secret – he has helped Gerard to win Elena’s heart. Elena, the second daughter of the king of Wardstone is the fairest lady in Lore (or even in Aurelia Continent!). Gerard has won jousts, tournaments, and he can match Elena’s interest in poetry and religion. And most of all, Gerard has proved Elena that he esteems his love to her greater than glory and honor, and Gerard loves his country and Vadis, just the man Elena aspired to spend the rest of her life with. These were all thanks to Rael’charon’s extensive information.
And there she goes. Disguised as a maid wearing a black-hair wig and a white hood covering her face, Eloise walks to the stables before lunch. And there he is, just as Rael’charon advised – the grouchy boy – feeding a horse and brushing its mane and body with water mixed with herbals. Paeldagrin the horse seems very comfortable and it’s eating heartily as though its life is heaven whenever Robert is around.
Then Eloise prepares her prank. She takes out a sling and a pebble. She’s about to shoot the horse with the pebble and gives Robert a trouble which will be a pretty amusing show. But a quick sense comes into her at the last moment: She shouldn’t play that dangerous plan at her first meeting with Robert. What if he dies or gets injured? What if his lord fires him? Eloise will never see Robert again. So Eloise changes her mind and carries on with plan B: She will walk right to him when he’s not around his horse and kiss him in an instant. That’ll be an element of surprise and excitement.
‘Hehehe, it’s SHOW TIME!’
Eloise tiptoes silently towards Robert. Robert doesn’t aware yet that a girl is coming to him, and is busy putting the equipments back in place. He doesn’t look happy although he does feel happy after completing his duties just before lunch. That’ll be two hours of rest before he goes to his studies and training. Suddenly the careless Eloise trips on a slippery mud on the stable floor, and falls, crashing face-first on the floor. Robert turns around upon the loud crashing sound. He is surprised to find a little maid lays face-down on the floor.
Robert thinks. Oh boy, there goes my resting hour. Now I remember to clean the stable too. It’s not cleaned in ages!
His face remains sulky although he’s surprised, and he helps the little maid to get up. And what a wonder, as he looks at the maid’s face, he cannot help laughing out loud. The little maid’s face and body is all covered with mud and what suspiciously looks like horse dung. Robert laughs on and covers his nose, while Eloise, the princess in disguise makes a sour face. Eloise scolds Robert, forgetting her ‘role’ as a maid.
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! Oh you can laugh after all, hah? Oh yeah. Just laugh at the silly, mud-covered girl! Where are your manners, huh? You’ll be hanged for this!’
Robert finally shows his original nature.
‘Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t treat girls like that. My apologies, your majesty. Well this is my neck, you can hang it, just make sure it’s hanged on a bean sprout! Wahahahaha!’
Eloise can’t contain herself any longer and starts to beat Robert playfully. Robert runs around the stable and Eloise chases him around. Robert always evades, and Eloise gets irritated and finally gets tired and falls on her knees. Robert stares at her with a smile, and soon he takes a napkin hanging on the wall, soaks it on clean water and begins to clean Eloise’s face. Eloise’s anger wanes at once, and she seems enjoying Robert’s treatment. After that Eloise takes the napkin and begins to wipe the mud and dung off her clothes and body, while talking.
‘Errr… you’re Robert, right?’
‘Hey, how come you know my name?’
Eloise is flabbergasted. She thinks fast for an excuse.
‘Errr… I heard that from the other maids. You know it’s rare to have somebody about your age in the palace, so I came to talk to you and maybe – we can be friends.’
‘Well of course. But as you know, around here I’m known as “grouchy boy”. And I generally don’t like anyone bothering me while I’m working.’
‘But you didn’t seem grouchy just now! You even told a bad joke!’
‘Hmph! My joke wasn’t bad! You are the bad prankster! You must’ve up to something bad, sneakin’ on me like that!’
‘I know you did!’
‘GRRR! Suit yourself!’
‘You’re such a pain!’
‘Just go away, grouchy boy! I don’t want to play with you!’
‘No, YOU go away! I work here! Stop bothering me! I’ll be late for lunch!’
Suddenly they hear their stomachs grumbling. Robert and Eloise pause for a while, and then they laugh together. Then Robert does his habit of scratching his head again, saying…
‘Oh, by the way, who’s your name anyway?’
‘I’m El… err… Elaine. I’m a junior maid here. You’re with Lord Walthorn, aren’t you?’
‘Yeah, I guess I am.’
‘Alas, that means you won’t be here for long.’
‘Well, you don’t have to worry. Lord Walthorn often comes here, right? And I’m ordered to accompany him wherever he goes, so we’ll see each other quite often.’
‘That’s good! Ah, anyway I must go to the kitchen and have lunch first before preparing lunch for the royalties. Will you join me, Rob? I surely can spare a thing or two in the kitchen!’
‘Of course, why not?’
‘Let’s go then!’
Robert’s mind is full of delicious food that he doesn’t ask Eloise a.k.a. Elaine why she wears her hood everywhere she goes. The kitchen maids and cooks recognize the face resemblance between Princess Eloise and the new maid Elaine, but Rael’charon has already told all the maids and palace attendants that ‘Elaine’ is the new maid under his own recommendation. And they can’t doubt the cleverest person in Lore.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
THE DREAM PART II:
THE FORBIDDEN LOVERS
The Old King and the Little Princess
The first day of autumn comes at last. And it’s time for Walthorn to stay at
And there he is – escorting Walthorn to Alceste. The journey is uneventful, so Walthorn uses his time to teach Robert a thing or two, and tells him about the history of the land.
‘Our great king, King Michael VI, once assisted the hero of his time, Sage The Fireheart – the first emperor of
Robert replies without any signs of interest in his face, as though he thinks it’s very interesting exciting and important to know about The History of The Great Crusades.
‘That’s really great, milord. I mean those heroes – they must’ve killed multitudes of orcs.’
‘Well, the truth is they really were – and remember, our great kings of Lore also participated in killing orcs too, Robert. You must honor their heroism too.’
‘The orcs are still too many. Had they been perished….’
Gloom comes on Robert’s face again. Ever since the tragedy, Robert developed a habit of negative thoughts along with his determination to kill the orcs and drive them into extinction. Walthorn thinks he MUST change it – Robert’s negative thinking is his sole obstacle of being a great leader.
‘My child. Remember, you released me from my negative thoughts before – why do you think negatively now? Where’s your spirit? Where’s your determination to be strong? I told you these histories about the great heroes so you can learn from their spirit to fight to the end and be a great leader. Negativity won’t prevail against evil – Evil feeds from negativity. Keep that in mind, Robert.’
‘Yes, my liege. I will.’
But Robert still keeps his negative thinking habit for some time…
They arrive in Alceste after three days’ travel. On their way to
Robert tries to hide his astonishment. But his eager eyes cannot lie, and Walthorn notices that. As they arrive at the palace, Walthorn is greeted by the newly appointed crown prince, Gerard. His father, the old King George XIII is rather ill, and he needs Walthorn for counsel and comfort. King George fears that the ambitious Emperor Sage IV of
‘My dear Lord Walthorn, it’s good to have you here at this time. My father is in unrest. Maybe you can comfort him.’
‘Hahaha. My prince, the old king should be content to have you as an heir. You already have shown your quality that matches our great King Michael VI, in the battlefield as well as in politics.’
Gerard is not swayed with this flattery, and says flatly.
‘No matter how good an heir is, a war is a war, and it can tear this kingdom apart. You know if I ever want to maintain the stability and integrity in this kingdom, I must secure your support first. You have the generals and the lords behind you. They listen to you, and without your support, they will create disputes between each other for power – for being the second man under me, and this will create chaos – a perfect moment for Arcadia to attack.’
‘My respects upon your extensive foresight and insight, your Excellency.’
‘Well, enough about politics and let’s give my father the comfort he needs.’
Walthorn has already known that King George will ask him to support the crown prince Gerard to maintain the stability and the strong defenses of Lore. Walthorn, the prime minister, leader of the Order of Lions, and the Grand Marshal of the Army. George needs Walthorn to pledge his loyalty and allegiance to Gerard the future king to make sure that Walthorn won’t go assuming for power and kingship although Gerard is proven worthy as a king. This knowledge makes Walthorn stay calm, as he has been ready with a ready answer.
Walthorn gives an order to Robert.
‘Robert, go to the stables and take care of Paeldagrin. You may walk around the palace after you’re done, but take care not to enter the royal family chambers, or you’ll be in mortal trouble.’
Duke Walthorn and Prince Gerard go into the palace, and Robert takes the horse to the stable. Paeldagrin looks tired, he thinks, but Walthorn needs rest more than it after all the teaching and history-telling along the way. But an order is an order, Robert resolves. And he has his orders, and he is going to do it well as usual.
After doing his chores, Robert walks around the palace, avoiding the royal chambers as he is told. He asks a royal attendant to be his guide around the palace. He is marveled by the grandness of the palace, as though he is already in heaven. It’s not a gothic-styled palace like Jeland Citadel in Varestine, but the walls are painted pure white, with white marble pillars. And the royal throne room is like a towering dome, with three silvery white great chairs at the high, staired platform.
Robert thinks. So this is where the king performs his daily audiences. How grand! How great!
After feasting his eyes with the greatness of the palace, Robert goes to the courtyard to find a spot where he can sit and relax. As he arrives at the courtyard, he finds the courtyard already filled with people. He sees three ladies who look like princesses, and some others who apparently are the maids. Robert moves closer out of curiosity in order to see them clearer. Then he watches a small girl – one of the princesses – playing ball with the maids. While the two other princesses only sit at a corner and chat with each other. The little princess seems naughty, and she kicks the ball so hard that it hits one of the princesses – that seems to be her mother. The mother gets up, walks towards the little princess and scolds her.
‘Eloise! How many times must I tell you – this is a palace, not a playground! Mind your playing! What if you hit a lord, or even the king himself? You’ll be in a deep trouble, little princess!’
Princess Eloise makes a face, and talks back to her mother insolently.
‘Ah! It’s not fun around here! I can’t play as free as I can! I can’t even have friends!’
Eloise’s mother, Princess Elena, Crown Prince Gerard’s wife gets angrier and raises her voice, almost yelling at Eloise.
‘That’s PALACE PROTOCOLS for you, princess! Remember, you’re not an ordinary person or a peasant. You’re meant to marry a prince or a king someday, and your marriage is very important for your country!’
‘Maybe I don’t want to be extraordinary! Maybe I want to be a peasant – at least they are free and have friends!’
‘Hmph! You kids won’t understand! Peasants are not free! They have different and crueler masters: POVERTY and landlords! Maybe someday you will understand this!’
‘Yeah, Someday, mom. But not now! What use is my childhood if I can’t enjoy it just a little bit?’
‘You dare talk back to me, little princess? Well, you’re GROUNDED! For two days!’
‘What!? Oh, come on, mom!’
‘No buts, missy! Now go to your room and study!’
Eloise stubbornly kicks the ground, and walks towards the palace. On her way she sees Robert standing in watch – expressionless.
Who’s that sulky-looking kid? Eloise thinks. Hmmm, I think he’s not from this palace, as no kid in this palace is allowed to go near me.
Eloise gives Robert a childish, sweet smile, but Robert doesn’t return it with smile – but still in his cold – expressionless face.
In Eloise’s mind: What a grouch! But he’s interesting. Hmmm… maybe…
In Robert’s mind: What a spoiled girl! I’ll be in nothing but trouble if I hang around her!
Then a maid comes to Robert and gives him a warning.
‘You’re not allowed to be near a member of a royal family – unless you’re a knight or under royal orders.’
‘Oh, I understand, ma’am. I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.’
Robert leaves the courtyard at once and resolves to go back to his stable where he can relax.
‘This looks like a castle’ he thinks. ‘Where am I?’
Robert looks around, there’s a tapestry, a cupboard, a chair, a large mirror, and a table with a basin and a napkin on it. He looks at himself. He’s wearing nice, clean clothes. Feeling strong enough although a bit drowsy, Robert gets up from his bed and looks outside the window. He sees a beautiful view of a land with birds passing by and the sun – how he loves to see the sun again. And the fresh air… Robert takes a deep breath and exhales by blowing upwards to his hair – one of his habits. Then he sees a strange thing – his front hair is all white.
‘My hair… am I seeing wrong?’ Robert thinks.
He pulls his hair down a bit and takes a good look, with right eye open. An eerie thought comes in Robert’s mind.
‘Argh! It’s white!’
Robert rushes to the mirror, and stands there, stunned in terror. His hair is silvery white all over, and a thought comes into his mind.
‘I’m a disappointment. I allowed the tragedy to ruin my heart, my thought and my hair. I can’t protect my family, I can’t even protect Tisha – my negligence has caused her death. I should’ve never returned there, but waited for the soldiers to show up, and beg for protection. Then Tisha might be saved. My bad! People thought I’m thinking like a grown-up, but in fact a child is a child… Oh, I understand now. These all happened because of my lack of experience, and I’m not strong enough. If only I was a grown-up man, a hunter like my father, maybe I can rouse the village people to form a quick defense and fend off the orc-things.’
Robert pauses for a while, and then he looks at the ring on his left ring finger and thinks,
‘Mom, I’m sorry I disobeyed you, though it saved my life. But maybe it’s God’s will that I was spared. Maybe He has a good plan for me; maybe He wants me to be His agent to punish the orcs and monsters. Oh God, please give peace for my father, mother, Tisha, her mom, and the other villagers. Give them rest from this war against monsters, aggressors and evil. Let me continue my life, make me strong so I can carry out Your will.’
Then Robert kisses his ring and stares at the mirror again. The thought of God’s kindness cures him from his negativity and he doesn’t give up on life any longer. With this new hair, he now enters a new life. And the goal of his new life is – to punish as many orcs as possible and make that monstrous humanoid extinct in Lore – or even in Aurelia. And the first step is – to be stronger. And the lord in this castle has offered to make him stronger, so he will accept it willingly. His mind is set.
A few minutes later, the door opens. The maid comes, and her expression changes into gladness on seeing Robert is awake, fully healed and well. Robert is standing in front of the mirror, deep in thought. The maid clears her throat, and Robert realizes her coming at once.
‘Oh, you’re awake, Robert.’
‘Ah, madam! How do you know my name? What is this place? Who took me?’
‘Slow down; slow down, one question at a time. You see I’m not quite young anymore.’
‘But you still look perfect, ma’am.’
‘Haha, flattery from a smart kid works every time.’
‘Well, anyway, this place is called Jeland, citadel of the Duchy of Walfront in Varestine city. The person who took you is the Good Duke Adamar Walthorn, the lord of this citadel and region and, major of this city. And he told me your name and told me to look after you.’
A flash of Duke Walthorn’s face comes in Robert’s mind. A kind middle-aged man offered to make him stronger.
Robert sighs, ‘Ah, I wish to thank him for taking care of me.’
A voice comes from outside.
Robert and the maid glance towards the door – and there he is, Duke Walthorn, walking into the room from the doorway with the air of dignity, experience, integrity and wisdom.
‘Well, you’re awake at last, my child.’
Robert kneels to salute the duke and express his respect and gratitude.
‘Good sire, my gratitude to you upon your kindness.’
‘Well, well, you speak too well and too polite for a child – did you learn that from your parents? They must be nobles.’
‘To tell you the truth, sire, they are just simple peasants. My father Emmerich Chandler was a hunter, and my mother Klarisse was a weaver.’
‘Ah, you’re a
‘Alas, Sir, she was not spared – so were the other villagers I knew…’
Robert’s expression changes into a sallow, sad face.
‘… And one of them, my best friend was slain because of my recklessness.’
‘Now, now my child. Don’t you ever keep that thought. It was not your fault at all. Your friend should’ve been near you all the time so you two can keep an eye on each other – and she was not. And the orc raid – and the escaping orcs… It should’ve been my fault. My worst blunder during my lordship. Had I detected that danger, I would’ve sent reinforcements sooner and rouse the villagers to stay alert and perform the necessary defenses. Will you ever forgive me from an old man’s folly?’
Robert is touched, but his expression is unchanged. It seems that he just developed a new personality from this tragedy – cool and somewhat indifferent. It’s not a sign of a hopeless person, but comes from his determination to focus to his goal – to be stronger and to avenge his family and friends, and get rid to all ‘unnecessary’ feelings. From now on, he only smiles, laughs, gets angry or sad only if he can’t help it or he thinks it’s necessary.
Seeing Robert’s indifferent face, Walthorn thinks that Robert is still angry and distressed with all this tragedy. And Robert blames him from being careless. But Robert speaks in reply,
‘Good sir, but I think it’s nobody’s fault. It’s only about human nature and orc nature. I think you have done everything you can to defend your realm, but monsters are monsters. They don’t care how good your defenses are. They just attack anyway, following their wild instincts.’
Now it’s Walthorn’s turn to be touched.
‘Robert! I never expected so much understanding and wisdom from a little boy like you! Now I’m surely convinced that you can be a great general someday – and I personally will assist you to be stronger and wiser. You’re right. Now it’s not the time to regret. The right thing to do is to find solutions to minimize the risk of monster attacks – and that is to lessen their population and if necessary, make them extinct – by the service of the hunters.’
‘Yes, Robert. Hunters hunt for monsters as well as fur and game. Thanks to them, the population of monsters has been greatly declined for the past century. Anyway, our words gave me an idea. I will make hunters more proactive, to hunt monsters without waiting for jobs and targets anymore. But we will pay them for whatever monsters they killed. Of course the jobs are still necessary as they offer better pay. Ah, this idea may deplete my treasury, but it’s sure less expensive than the loss of villages and human lives.’
‘Well, I think I want to be a hunter someday.’
‘Hahaha, you do? That’s good. But you’re meant for something greater and nobler – a soldier. A general. Remember, sometimes humans are worse than monsters. Monsters kill for their basic necessities, but humans… sometimes for no reason at all.’
‘The same with orcs.’
‘Er, yes. But consider that you can defend your country better by fighting against ALL kinds of aggressors, humans and monsters alike.’
Robert thinks for a while. He prefers to be a hunter than a soldier because he will have more chances to encounters with Orcs and can kill them at will – than a soldier that kills on order – sometimes against his own will. But as Walthorn offered him to make him strong, Robert had already decided to accept that offer, and goes along the path that is available to him until he meets his destiny.
‘Very well, then. Please accept my humble service, my liege.’
‘That’s my good lad. Now kiss my ring to seal the bond between us.’
Robert takes Walthorn’s hand and kisses Walthorn’s ring on his right ring finger.
‘Now I declare you Robert the Page of The Duchy of Walfront. Keep in mind that I will repay good deeds with honor, loyalty with love, and treachery with revenge. You’ll be my student and my servant, and you’ll be stationed in the stables at all times except in your study and special tasks I will assign you. And you will also escort me in my travels as my pupil and to take care of my horse, Paeldagrin.’
Robert bows and kneels in response.
‘I’ll do my lord’s biddings.’
‘Good, good. Now you take a rest for the day. You’ll be given a briefing at the stables tomorrow by the stable master, Squire Kelba and the lessons will start the day after tomorrow at . Good day, my lad.’
‘Good day to you, my lord.’
Walthorn leaves the room. Robert however doesn’t look happy or disappointed – just expressionless as usual. Then he climbs his bed and is drowned in his thoughts.
End of Chapter Two
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Class : Ranger + Guardian = Fire Paladin
Status : Stable boy > Scout > Knight > Marshal
Rank : Page > Squire > Knight
Race : Human
Nation : Lore
Best Weapon : Grimlock – Fire Dragon Saber
Best Armor : Algaban’s Dragon Rune Armor Set : Half-plate, Greaves & Arm Braces
First Weapon : Emmerich’s Kiliji – Curved Long Sword (Katana), Compound Crossbow
First Armor : Fine Leather Armor => Compounded Breastplate
Guardian : Algaban, The Ancient Fire Dragon
Skills / Spells :
- Sword Mastery with Fire Property
- Archery Skills : Eagle Eye and Bull’s Eye
Basic Sword Mastery :
- Power Bash
- Three-Point Chain Slash
- Four-Ways Cross Slash
- Air Slash
- Ten-Point Chain Slash
- Spinning Jumpslash
- Uppercut Slash
Dragon-slaying Swordplay :
- Dragonsnap - Power Bash
- Dragon Jaws and Claws - Three-Point Chain Slash
- Dragon Wings - Air Slash
- Dragon Tailstrike - Backslash
- Dragonstrike - Ten-Point Chain Slash
- Dragon Rolls in the Clouds - Spinning Jumpslash
- Rising Dragon - Uppercut Slash
- Dragon Hammering Down – Jump and/or Downward Slash
- Crescent Dragonfire – Fire Slash
- Dragon Ultimatum – Full-Powered Straight Thrust
- Wrath Of The Dragon God / Algaban’s Absolution – Finishing Omnislash (18-hit combo)
- Nine-Headed Dragon – Finishing Combo Strike: (Dragonsnap – Rising Dragon – Dragon Hammering Down - Dragon Jaws and Claws (3 hits) - Dragon Rolls in the Clouds – Dragon Tailstrike – Dragon Ultimatum)
Robert is indifferent, ‘cool’, serious, and full of determination, a personality formed by the traumatic incidents of his youth. For him, it’s very difficult to trust anybody. He even fears that someday his closest friend may stab him from behind. He prefers to focus to his disciplined life and training than women (he also had a traumatic experience with women). But several near-death experiences change his attitude and he can finally be a good leader to his hunting party and a great general of Lore. His prior obsession is to see orcs extinct from Aurelia, by his hands or another. His great loathing and vengeance towards the orcs earned him the nickname ‘Orcbane’ and the title master hunter in Lore.
Arkvale Village is no more. Ruins, smoke and ashes are everywhere around that area. Then a troop of light cavaliers come into the ruins. They stand there in terror.
‘We’re too late.’
‘Yes, they attacked here so suddenly. The villagers didn’t even have time to call for reinforcements.’
‘At least we hunted down those blasted orcs.’
‘Ah, but there were some who fled, right? And we chase ‘em here and kill an orc or two.’
The captain interrupts,
‘Enough talking. Now go into the village, bury the victims and salvage anything you can find. We can’t expect any survivor there.’
The troops spread and begin to look for casualties. Then they collect the dead and cover them with anything they can find before burying them on the village outskirts. One of the soldiers sees something out of ordinary in the village.
‘Hey, guys! Look here!’
‘See that? A boy stabbed an orc with a heavy sword! Poor soul! What a waste, such a brave kid!’
‘And his hair – it’s all white! Was he born like that… or…?’
‘I heard a sudden, terrible trauma or catastrophe can turn your hair white in an instant.’
Rosso the soldier checks the boy – Robert by holding his arms to feel the pulse.
‘This is INCREDIBLE! He’s ALIVE! He’s still warm, and he still has the pulse too!’
The others are struck with awe, and one even comes forward and puts a finger in front of Robert’s nose.
‘Rosso’s right! He’s still breathing!’
Then they hear the sound of galloping horses and they turn around to see a man dresses like a noble and what looks like his personal guards dismounting from their horses. The man is indeed a noble – He is Duke Adamar Walthorn, lord of the Walfront region (including Arkvale Village) and one of the king’s generals, leader of the Order of the Lions. He’s one of the king’s trusted counsellors of war, and he serves as the vice commander-in-chief in the war against Arcadia. He is 53, and not wearing his full armor, he looks like an ordinary middle-aged well-built man with beard and moustache, traces of white hair and a face which shows that he is well-experienced in many wars and very wise. The Walthorns have inherited the Walfront Duchy for generations, and Duke Walthorn didn’t neglect to provide himself with an heir and two more sons.
The captain does a half-kneeling salute, and the soldiers nearby follow suit.
‘Captain James Hickram, reporting on duty, Sire.’
‘Captain, how’s the situation?’
‘The village is totally destroyed, sire. Burnt to ashes. And nearly no survivors. We were too late, but at least we had hunted down and annihilated the orcs.’
‘Did you receive any request of reinforcements from the village?’
‘Yes, sire, but the messenger arrived when the orcs already attacked. The messenger himself died from his wounds. Then we sent our cavaliers for a full pursuit and intercepted the orcs at the riverbank.’
‘Very well then. Continue your work.’
Then Walthorn can’t contain his grief anymore, and he himself falls on his knees. Tears rolling from his eyes as he says…
‘This village… I had fond memories from my visits here. They were nice and friendly people. No one stole from another. No crime here. This village was always clean and beautiful. What a dreadful end… my worst blunder…’
Then suddenly he realizes something, and he calls the captain.
‘Did you say “nearly” no survivors?’
‘Yes, milord. There is a survivor here. A boy.’
‘Is that true? Show him to me then!’
And Walthorn sees Robert, still lying unconscious near a dead orc. As Walthorn comes closer, Captain James Hickram explains.
‘We found him lying on top of this orc, still clutching his sword. We think he has slain the orc.’
‘What? A boy slew an orc? That’s impossible! This creature was ten times stronger than he is!’
‘That’s what we saw, milord. Let’s just wait for him to regain his consciousness and…’
‘Captain! Sir Captain! The boy’s awake!’
Walthorn and the captain rush towards Robert, and Walthorn hold him on to help him awake.
‘Wake up, boy! You’re alive!’
Robert murmurs, ‘… uggnnnhh…’
And he slowly opens his eyes, reaching up, murmuring, ‘… Ti… shaa…’
‘Brace yourself, boy! You’re safe now.’
Then Robert sees around him, still weak and exhausted from his fight with the orc. Tisha’s body is not around – the soldiers have moved her. He cries, but no tears come out from his eyes – as he has cried too much already and the tears were as though dried out.
‘Tishaaa…! Where’s Tisha?’
‘I think she’s passed away, my child. You’re the only survivor.’
‘Only?’ Robert thinks. He tries to recall, and flashes of the past events comes from his memory: Laetitia was slain in front of him, the ugly orc and his fight with the orc – how he killed the orc with only one blow from his kiliji…
Robert tries to get up and reach for his kiliji – but he’s too weak to do it. Walthorn understands at once. The sword on the orc’s body is indeed Robert’s, so Robert really killed the orc. Walthorn braces Robert and stares at him admiringly. What a brave little hero, he thinks.
Then he calls Captain James.
‘Captain, fetch that sword, clean it and bring it to me. As for the boy, put him in the cart and take him to the citadel. Let him rest, he’s still too weak.’
‘Your biddings will be done, milord.’
Walthorn speaks to Robert again.
‘What’s your name, my child?’
‘Ro… Robert, mi… lord…’
‘Oho… you’re so polite, aren’t you? And you’re very brave too. I like you. Now we’ll take you to the citadel and I’ll take care of you. I’ll train you and make you stronger. I think you can be a fine soldier someday.’
‘No buts, my child. Just take this as a token of my apology because I failed to protect your village. I know you’re sad about your family, and your friend… Tisha, I presume. And don’t worry. I’ll return your sword later, as good as new. And I will bury the villagers, one grave for one, with something to recognize them on each tomb.’
Robert faints again. Walthorn doubts whether Robert listened to his words clearly – but if he asks again, Walthorn is ready with the right answers.
Walthorn thinks. He even tried to argue with me in that state. Hmmm, he’s brave, but he’s too reckless. Maybe he should learn to control his strength – if he DOES have it. He cannot depend on luck alone.
THE DREAM PART I:
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Flashes of the Past
It’s a sunny day in the peaceful village of Arkvale, Lore. Thanks to the hunters, deadly monsters are rarely seen around there – except if one is foolish or daring enough to venture into the forest. And Arkvale itself is home of some good hunters, as well as peasant militias – peasants are quite adequately trained to defend themselves from the dangers from outside, organized neatly with the village chief’s leadership. No monsters in the meadows near the village either, only common beasts and cattle pasture from the lush, green pastures. We can also see oak, willow and elm trees in the woods not far from there.
The image of the peaceful meadow is made complete with two small kids, a ten-year old blonde boy and an eight-year old girl playing joyfully at the meadow. The boy is playing a tune with his pan flute, and the girl is singing and dancing, following the tune.
O’ heavenly acorns of peace,
Come down to us from the Living Tree
we’re making a song for thee,
For the hope of the happy and free
O’ will the joy last forever true,
In a beautiful life we’re going through
O’ will the joy can never spent,
The springs of love flowing without end
O’ sweet love, sweet love,
Nurture us with your fruits of peace
O’ sweet love, sweet love,
Protect us with your flails of grace
The Song of Love and Peace
- By Keith Arnûviel, Elf Bard, the
A simple song they just learnt from the wandering bard that just came five days ago in the village. The song was made to make people think, can love cause peace? Or must there be peace first, and then the seeds love can grow? They are surely relevant to each other – but remember even in the time of war true love can be seen. Of course peace is the situation – the fertile ground where love can bloom and grow. But yes, in a certain way, love can cause peace. The love for the country and the loved ones makes one does everything he can to defend them : to try to coexist with others, or if others refuse to coexist and try to destroy everything that is dear to one’s heart, one may choose to fight and die for it, for love’s sake.
The kids’ simple, childish minds certainly can’t understand the meaning of this tune completely, but as the tune gives them joy, they keep on dancing, singing and playing music until they are tired and they lie on the grass, staring at the sky above them.
‘Er… Laetitia?’ says the boy.
The girl, Laetitia answers, ‘Yes?’
‘You sang very well, just like the bard’.
‘Well, thank you, Robert.’
And Laetitia gives Robert a friendly kiss as thanks for the compliment.
They pause for a while. Then Laetitia comments,
‘Er, Robert, are you sure this is alright? I mean, us playing in the meadows far from the village?’
‘That’s all right, Tisha (Laetitia’s nickname). My mom has given me permisson.’
‘Hey, she gave you permission to PLAY with me only – not to go to this place.’
‘But she didn’t mention that we shouldn’t play HERE, right? Anyway I heard Mrs. Jameson said that this village and the surroundings are monster-free now. No need to worry at all.’
‘Ew… I trust your word more than Mrs. Jameson’s. She’s only a loudmouth.’
‘Okay, okay, whatever you say. Now we’re already here, and all we can do is be more careful.’
‘If monsters come, will you run or will you fight them?’
‘Hey hey, I’m still a little kid. Of course I will run.’
‘But if the monsters catch you?’
‘Naah, they can’t. I can run as fast as a deer.’
Laetitia makes a scary face.
‘Oh yeah? GRRRR! Here comes the monster now! Let’s see how fast you run!’
‘Wow! Scary monster! Run for your lives!’
Robert gets up, and Laetitia chases him playfully, grunting but also laughing.
‘C’mon, creepy monster! Come and get me!’
Robert blows raspberries.
And they keep playing until… they hear heavy footsteps in the forest behind them.
‘Rob, do you hear that?’
‘Footsteps, Rob! They’re coming from the forest!’
Robert tries to listen more carefully.
‘AH, you’re right, Tisha! But how can footsteps be heard in such a long distance? Unless there are many of them, running! Let’s hide! Quick!’
Robert and Laetitia run to a thicket and a big rock nearby, and hide in the thicket. They peep outside and try not to make the slightest sound. They just hug each other, shivering.
Robert whispers, ‘Monsters…’
‘Robert, I’m scared…’
‘Keep your voice down, Tisha. Until we know who they really are.’
They are getting more tensed as the footsteps draw nearer and nearer – and finally some figures come out. Robert tries to look more clearly, and he sees a band of human-like figures, but they can’t be humans. They have greenish and greyish skins, and two of their teeth stick out from their large mouths, and they wear strange armors – real different than the ones Robert ever seen before. There are about fifty of them, and they all look frightening.
Laetitia murmurs, ‘Orcs…’
Robert warns her again, ‘Sssh!’
The creatures Laetitia mentioned, the orcs are running – and now they are shouting in a strange language that sounds like grunts. Apparently it’s their warcry.
‘Ghraaak! Ghraaaaaak!!! Kraal du ega bharrooom!!’ (Charge! Charge! Death for all enemies!)
Hearing that, and seeing their actions, Robert realizes something: They are attacking Arkvale Village! He wants to get up to warn the villagers and evacuate his family, but it’s too late. The orcs are close! And they are too strong, and according to their appearances, they surely are merciless brutes who kill every human in their path, pillaging, sacking, leaving no one alive.
‘Moom! Daad! Please, spare them. Let them run away…!’
These words are repeating like an echo in Robert’s mind, and Laetitia is already crying.
Laetitia cries, ‘Mommy!!!’
And she gets up to go to her village – but Robert drags her back into the thicket.
An orc in the band pauses on hearing loud noises, and turns his head to the back. But he sees no one there. He grunts, turns and goes towards the village. Robert muffles Laetitia’s mouth and they keep hugging each other in the thicket, crying. Robert feels helpless.
‘If only I am stronger… I’ll rush into the village without doubt. But what can I do? I’m only a child. A helpless little boy.’ Robert thinks. He surely has a mature thinking, more mature than his age.
Minutes later, they begin to feel hot. Fearing the worst, Robert and Laetitia come out from the thicket and look towards Arkvale. The village is on fire! They also hear faint screams and cries from the village. Laetitia can’t contain herself any longer and runs towards the village hysterically, but Robert seizes her hand and draws her close to himself. Laetitia struggles to free herself from Robert’s hug, but then she cries aloud frantically and leans on Robert’s chest. Robert also cries without a sound, he is crestfallen to see all the people and things that he loves are killed and destroyed in an hour. Then Robert decides to hide in the thicket again, so he can come back later to his village to see whether his parents and Laetitia’s mother are safe. This will also save Laetitia and himself from a worse tragedy.
The screams die down about half an hour later, and it seems the orcs are not going back through the meadows. Robert still sees the fire raging in the village. Laetitia is already asleep, exhausted from too much shock. Then Robert also falls asleep.
They wake up early the next day. The fire has died down now. Laetitia murmurs…
‘Is mom safe? I have to see mom!’
‘No, Tisha! It’s not safe yet! Maybe the monsters – orcs, you say? – are still there yet, pillaging things….’
‘NO! I’ve waited long enough! I’m going now! I’m so scared! I need mommy!’
‘All right, I think the orcs have gone now. Let’s go there – maybe our parents have fled and returned to the village for any salvages.’
Both of them go to the village, the entire houses there were burnt down into ashes. As they go in, they see dead people scattered on the way. Laetitia shrieks in terror, and then runs hysterically to her house – or what used to be her house. She can’t find her mother in there or around.
Laetitia yells, ‘Mother! Mother!’
Robert pulls her hand.
‘She’s not here, Tisha. Better check my house too.’
Robert and Laetitia walk towards his house and on the way, Robert sees his father – dead. It seems that his father has put on a terrific struggle, as he sees three dead orcs lying not far from him. But the enemies were too many, and at last he met his demise at the edge of an orcish falchion. Robert’s father, Emmerich Chandler was a monster hunter, an army veteran. Robert cries at his father’s body for a while, and covers Emmerich’s body with Emmerich’s robe. Robert takes his father’s sword that lays not far from him – a kiliji – a curved sword that looks like a combination between a scimitar and a katana. Then holding the kiliji, Robert swears,
‘Father, I’ll use this sword to avenge your blood. Every orc in this world shall pay!’
After Robert ties the kiliji on his back with the rag he found nearby, Robert and Laetitia walk on to Robert’s house. He sees his sister’s corpse sprawling on the grassy way. Robert’s heart breaks into pieces. The orcs have no interest in raping humans – they just kill humans on the spot. Then Robert sees his house also burnt into ashes. He goes closer looks inside, and he sees a burnt hand sticking out from the rubbles of the fire – his mother! Robert falls on his knees, tears rolling down from his eyes. His tragedy is now complete. Trembling with sadness, Robert crawls on his knees closer to his mother’s body. And he sees his mother’s ring on her fourth finger – a simple golden ring. Still shivering, Robert takes the ring off and puts it on the fourth finger on his left hand, and he will move it to his fifth finger when he’s 14. Then he collapses to the ground and cries, as he has lost the person that cares for him most and he cares most in the world. He has lost everything.
‘Mother, I’ll wear this ring as long as I live.’
And he never takes it off again and kisses it everytime he is about to attack his target orcs as the memento of his mother that always said these words to him: ‘Never give up.’ This principle has built Robert’s advanced thinking and calm nature.
Suddenly he remembers Laetitia, he looks around and calls her…
But she’s not around. A stroke of terror comes into Robert’s mind, he has neglected to protect Laetitia while lamenting his own loss. He runs here and there, searching for her and calling her name. She must be still in the village, he thinks, she needs to find her mother – but her hysteria…
In that desperate moment he hears a faint cry.
‘A girl – it must be Tisha!’ He thinks.
Robert immediately rushes towards the source, and he finds Laetitia at last. She cries hysterically, leaning on a mangled body. It’s her mother. Robert calls from afar while running towards her.
Robert gets no response, but he keeps on calling.
Then Laetitia looks at him from afar, and gets up, still crying.
She is about to run to Robert, but she freezes. A greenish orc is already standing behind her with a sadistic smile on his face. Robert is thunderstruck and screams hysterically…
With this last word, Laetitia falls, crashing on the ground, dead. A throwing axe sticks at her back. It was all the orc’s doing. Maybe Robert can still be strong upon the death of his entire family, but seeing his best friend die – the one he should’ve been protecting… He stops – tears come from his eyes, his eyes and mouth are wide open.
‘Tisha… Pay for her blood, bastard!’
A mixture of sadness, self-disappointment, and rage accumulates into a new strength in him, and he goes berserk. He draws his Kiliji sword from his back and rushes fast towards the orc. It’s as though Robert has lost his mind.
The orc sees Robert, and throws another throwing axe at him.
‘You want to die too? Eat this!’
The throwing axe misses Robert’s body – only leaving a scratch on Robert’s left arm. Robert uses this moment before the orc realizes his axe has missed and stabs the orc right into his gut before the orc can even reach his sword. Both of them don’t move, and the orc lets out his final grunt then he dies on the spot with an expression of not believing he can be killed by a ten year old kid. The dead orc stumbles on the ground and lies there, dragging Robert and his kiliji along with him. Robert also falls, still holding his kiliji tightly. Then his sight goes blurry – everything goes dark. Bearing too much tragedy and trauma, Robert’s strength is failing him, and he falls unconscious on the dead orc’s feet, still holding his kiliji.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The Paladins of Light - Art by vadis
(Left-right, top-bottom) Lavennia Iris, Don Hernan y Parvaez, Kyflynn, Desmond Edmundsen, Dejan Pavlovic, Agustina Vyrakova, Viscount Adler von Bachmann, Carolyn, Andreas Marvellini (a.k.a. Rollo Bigstumble), Eidos Crydias, Alexis Deveraux, Robert Chandler, Christopher.
Made by Andry Chang - 2006
Saturday, May 20, 2006
A shadow moves quickly in the dark, in the shade of moonlight. It also moves cautiously and stealthily, so no enemy might spot him and it can attack them in a surprise. Then Robert the Orcbane, the hunter arrives in front of the cave in the West Harper Hills. He hides and tries to recall his plan again before going in for a surprise attack.
No guards at the front… Suppose the map is right. But I never know, right? I must be ready for all risks and possibilities. Maybe they have already expected a hunter to come and prepared an ambush. A’bong was a veteran captain. I was only a scout. I have no idea what kind of ambushes they will be preparing and how to tackle them. I only participated in one war – so I only know standard ones and no orcish types. Pity Hulferd has resigned, he must be able to give me a few more pointers. Ah, throw away those negative thoughts. I must overcome this by myself – if I ever want to improve. Vadis, help me.
Then he clasps his hand and prays like a true Vadisian devout, and then he kisses the ring on his left little finger. He’s now ready.
Okay, here goes nothing.
Robert enters the narrow cave with a torch in his left hand and his trusted Kiliji in his right hand. He walks along, and sees some light from afar. Now he is convinced that someone is indeed there and camps inside the cave.
I’m in luck. They’re here – or whatever it is.
He walks on, and the cave is getting wider with stalactites and stalagmites on his way – he’s going underground. He sees some torches hung on the cavern posts, and draws the conclusion that the orc can lead his gang as well as humans do and he becomes more alert.
As he walks on, he smells something strange. And the air around him moves like a soft breeze. He raises his kiliji. Suddenly two pairs of eyes are shown on his left and right, and two kobolds pounce on him. Calmly, without looking, Robert moves right and slashes his kiliji to the upper right, and cuts through the kobold on his right on its gut. Kobold blood showers and splatters on his hair and armor. He successfully avoids the kobold on his left. Without wasting any time, he attacks the kobold. The kobold blocks Robert’s attacks with its sword – but Robert’s attack is getting quicker and comes from different angles and variants, the kobold gets overwhelmed and finally Robert pierces its chest. Before it dies, the kobold lets out a loud, long howl as an alarm to warn its comrades.
Robert thinks, So much for the surprise. I better think of another plan quick.
He thinks as he runs on forward, hoping to reach A’bong and the remaining six kobolds before they even realize what the alarm means. But it’s still a long way to the center and Robert hears angry kobold barking sounds not far from there. So he decides to drop the plan and head back. On the way, an idea comes into him.
Why don’t I use their tactic against them? Hiding behind the dark parts will be good. I’ll use my ‘concentration’ and attack them in the dark.
Robert deliberately puts off the torches – except the ones near the narrow exit - and hides behind a post just like the kobolds did. Then the six kobolds arrive, running in frenzy. They realize that two of their comrades have been slain, by sniffing the blood and the kobold carcasses. And they howl in fury, especially the two female kobolds – because all the males are their mates. Robert sees that this is a perfect opportunity to attack – but he retracts himself as he hears a loud yell.
‘HALT! On guard, you hound ‘n bitches! Something’s odd here!’
Robert sees A’bong the orcish captain’s silhouette appears from the light of the torch from the exit and from A’bong’s rear. Then A’bong roars again.
‘Ghr’oak*! You morons! Can’t you see? The infiltrator is trying to ambush us! He put out the torches!’
Footnote : (* Ghr’oak = A hole in your gorged flesh! – A very rude Orcish sarcasm)
The kobolds only yelp and bark in reply, obeying their master and leader.
‘This one is good, better than the gorged guts trying to kill us these three months!
You bitch! Go to the center and bring us some torches! And the rest of you, spread! Proceed with caution! The infiltrator is still around here! Hiding!’
Gorged guts? Robert thinks. This orc probably eats humans, or at least the kobolds do.
Orcs are usually well-versed with Aurelian Common Speech as well as their own harsh language that mostly sounds like grunts and growls, but they always speak in harsh slangs and sarcasms, and only believe that they can only control or lead others by power and out of fear. Female orcs only choose those who are fearsome and strong (because no orc is fair – as a matter of fact). No wonder male orcs sometimes kill each other to get the female and to show who’s the strongest. And A’bong is indeed an example of an orc idol because his brutality is more terrible than his rude talks.
Back to the tension at hand. Robert thinks hard to free himself. Now he begins to think that he should’ve chosen to be an assassin or learn the methods of stealth-killing, or be a sorcerer with mass-killing skills, but martial art is what he does best. No regrets, then. A swordsman is a swordsman. Then a kobold sniffs near his hiding place. Robert is tensed. Then in split seconds his wits fly fast and without thinking twice he carries on with his new plan and attacks the kobold near him without looking; only using his other senses.
He successfully slashes the kobold diagonally on the torso, and the kobold wails before it dies. A’bong and the other kobolds hear the wail, and run to the source. Then Robert avoids the kobold in front of him and runs to the exit. But the large kobold lunges with its claws, slashing Robert’s left arm, leaving three scratch marks on the wound. Robert is in pain – but as usual he only grimaces – never screams. Clutching his bleeding left arm, Robert runs into the narrow part of the cave, and waits midway.
Then he hears loud barking and sees the large kobold entering the narrow passage, and its two fellow kobolds also enter with him. As they are racing to reach Robert, the three kobolds jam each other on the narrow passage which width can only support one person. Robert uses this opportunity by slashing into the large kobold, splitting it in half with his incredibly sharp kiliji. Then he charges onto the second kobold and decapitates it. The last one, the female kobold springs onto Robert with a greater speed than the male, and sinks its teeth on Robert’s chest only to find that its teeth only goes into the thick leather armor and only scratch Robert’s chest a bit. Robert sees this opportunity and thrusts his kiliji into the female kobold’s gut, killing it at once. Then he pushes the dead kobold away and pats his reliable armor, as though thanking Vadis for the one who sold him this good quality armor.
Then no one comes into the narrow passage – and Robert thinks that A’bong has already realized this tactic too. And it’s getting brighter inside – the torches are lit again. Well, playtime is over, Robert thinks. Now it’s the real showdown between a human, an orc and two kobold mongrels. Robert takes out his healing potion and drinks the whole dose from the container. Then he boldy walks into the wide caverns again, clutching his bleeding left hand.
I should’ve worn my robe and cloak tonight – and brought a healing salve, Robert thinks.
A sarcastic voice greets him as he comes out of the narrow pass.
‘Well, well, the rat finally comes out. Still have the guts, huh?
You got bigheaded after killing my six mongrels, huh?’
Robert sees A’bong standing at a distance, staring mockingly at him. Robert approaches him.
‘Gharh, not very good at all, you still got wounded by my mutts. You two, now stay away! It’s now a matter between two warriors. C’mon, take me down now! Show me what you got!’
The two kobolds back away. And Robert has already arrived in front of A’bong. Apparently A’bong has underestimated him because of his arm wound and several minor wounds on his body. And A’bong thinks that the blood on Robert’s right is Robert’s, so Robert must be in front of the death’s door and A’bong can finish him with ease.
Robert says, ‘You know what your problem is?’
‘You talk too much!’
Without warning, Robert attacks A’bong with his kiliji. A’bong is shocked with Robert’s fast moves – for a dying man. He gets overwhelmed at first, but he successfully repels Robert’s blows with his great axe. Then Robert increases the strength and speed of his attacks. Swordsmen usually use the balanced measure between strength and speed and have adequate constitution to bear heavy wounds before using healing potions.
Robert uses his skill – Power Bash and inflicts a deep wound on A’bong, but A’bong shows the Orcs’ great constitution by counter-attacking Robert with his great axe. Had Robert slowed down a little, he would have been split in two with the simple axe slash – Land and Sea Divide from A’bong. Robert backs away staggering from the shock vibration from the effect of A’bong’s strike, then he gathers his strength again quickly and launches his combo move – Ten Point Chain Slash, slashing ten times on ten different weak point possibilities in split seconds. It’s a devastating combo. A’bong can’t match his speed with Robert’s and gets slashed in seven points and can only block or avoid three. Blood gushes out from the wounds, and A’bong falls on his knees on the ground.
But as Robert is going to deliver his killing blow, the two kobolds charge to save their master and attack Robert from the front and left. The large kobold seizes Robert’s left foot, gnaws on Robert’s armored left side. At the same time the female kobold locks Robert’s sword and kicks Robert right at his cheek. The blows throw Robert backwards, and now he’s completely helpless – sprawling on the ground – seized by the two kobolds. Boy he wishes that he complied with Hulferd’s advice to bring a party along – and his stubbornness will lead to his death. And once again he gets the feeling he hates most: fear, as A’bong rises up again with glee. He raises his axe high – ready to deliver the Land and Sea Divide Slash to divide Robert in two.
‘Now, you die! And my mongrels will gorge your gut!’
In that critical moment a flash of a beautiful lady’s face comes in Robert’s mind and Robert quickly regains his resolve and wit.
He thinks, NO, I can’t die now!
He screams, ‘YAAAAAAHHH!!!’
The slash goes down. Robert lets out his spirited glare, and in split seconds, with his remaining strength rolls to the right, dragging the large kobold with him with his free left hand and the blow from A’bong slashes the large kobold instead and splits it in two – the large kobold has served as Robert’s shield now. The female kobold gets shocked and its grip is loosened. Robert gets up and thrusts his kiliji into the orc’s throat – his unarmored part and also the orcs’ common weak point. A’bong spills out blood and he dies with wide-opened eyes before he can say ‘Impossible!’ – His last thought.
Robert retracts his sword from A’bong’s throat, and the dead orc falls on the ground. The female kobold howls at the top of its voice, enraged by the loss of its mates and master. Robert’s physical strength has depleted, but a newfound strength is growing inside him. It’s fire, the element of Robert’s inner strength. It has been triggered when Robert avoided A’bong’s last attack and now it’s growing out from his hand then covers his kiliji. From now on, he can use fire property in his sword skills. The female kobold whimpers at Robert’s display of strength – He’s stronger and more deadly than A’bong is and ever be. Its canine instinct takes over – it flees.
But Robert is now determined to finish his job completely and slashes his sword from afar, horizontally. A crescent-shaped fire emerges from the slash and flies in high speed towards the kobold. The kobold feels a hot wind behind it and turns its head back – and it howls in terror as the fiery crescent splits its torso in two.
It was one of the sword skills that originally utilize air – The Dragon Wings Air Slash. Now with fire property its name is The Crescent Fire Slash. Robert and Hulferd can do multiple air slashes, but in this case one is enough to finish the job.
Realizing that his job is finished, Robert sighs in relief. Tears start rolling from his eyes, as though he is sad and dissatisfied, but in fact the true reason is different. And his expression is somewhat indifferent. One may think that this is just a daily routine for Robert, or a mere trifle.
It’s another job well done.
But before he can move to decapitate his target or collect the proofs of his work, his failing physical strength, wounds all over his body, and loss of blood makes him staggering, lolling and then he collapses on the ground, unconscious. His condition is critical, and sometimes when a man goes into that state, flashes of the past and his entire life may come to him…
End of Chapter One
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Robert and Pear arrive at the Hunters’ Guild in Rand. It’s a fairly large building with a banner bearing a cross-lining between a snake and a sword, as though the snake is pierced by the sword. All Hunters’ Guilds in all regions of Lore use this symbol to show the wide network and excellent management system they have. So it is possible that several jobs can come from other cities – but those sorts of jobs must be the difficult ones that require extra skill and experience that are few among the hunters in the job commissioner’s region.
Many hunters of different sorts: swordsmen, warriors, assassins, archers and mages; men and women are there – it seems that the hunting job attracts more talented people than being a soldier, a mercenary, a bodyguard or even a thug. Some even wear clean robes and shiny armors – to show that they are distinguished hunters that are more trustworthy than the shabby ones. Of course, most of them crowd near job posters hanging on walls and message boards, and queue near job counters. The clerks are usually fine maidens with attractive uniforms – another proof of the excellent management of the guild.
Pear guides Robert to a poster on the right wall – the one that no hunters are seen around it. It bears a poorly drawn picture of an orc’s face, and Robert sees the notice:
A’bong the Orc
Extra 50 Florins for
every kobold’s head in A’bong’s gang
For crimes against the
Banditry, Robbery, Murder
Robert reacts, ‘Well, it seems the reward is slightly higher than usual.’
A voice comes from behind.
‘That’s because this is not any stray Gremion orc or common ones – this guy is intelligent. He can even round up kobolds and lead a band. Of course the reward is fitting.’
Robert turns around to see the speaker – Hulferd, the Guild Master. Hulferd is a 43-years old man with beautifully-trimmed moustache and beard, and well-built. Traces of his handsome face can still be found on him. It seems that he is a former well known hunter and now runs his own guild. Robert greets him in his usual, cold but polite manner.
‘Good afternoon, Sir Hulferd.’
‘So, are you interested, Rob? I got the details right here.’
‘You don’t have to ask me that. Just tell me the details straightaway.’
‘Hahaha, don’t be like that, Rob, my friend. You know I always remember you every time I get jobs like this. It’s just no other hunters here ever want to take orc-hunting jobs. They think it’s too risky and dangerous for them, and I don’t have to send the posters to other cities when you’re around.’
‘And I specialize in orcs, highly dangerous monsters, and bandits.’
‘Right. Well then, shall we move to a quiet place for a quick briefing?’
Then Robert takes out three zennies and hands them to Pear, touching his head affectionately as though Pear is Robert’s own son.
‘Here, Pear. Now stay out of trouble. There are so much bandits and monsters around with these many posters. Don’t let your parents worried.’
‘I will, sir. Thank you, sir.’
Pear walks away joyfully. Robert and Hulferd walk to the office rooms in the second floor.
The second floor consists of several office cabins and Hulferd’s own compartments. Hulferd enters a room – his office. Robert follows him in, and inside he sees a simple table with three chairs, with piles of parchments stored in racks. The wall is full of job posters – almost all with ‘X’ in a ‘O’ stamps that signifies that the jobs are complete. Robert takes notice of a new, unstamped poster with a picture of a fearsome, mysterious looking assassin on it and asks Hulferd.
‘Hulferd, who is the guy in that poster? Why didn’t you put it on the boards?’
‘Oh boy, haven’t you heard, Rob? Tsk, tsk, a person by your trade…’
‘Well, I’m not actually THAT sociable, you know.’
‘Hahaha… By the way, that guy is called MacLair. Oliver MacLair, a rogue assassin. He has killed several high-rank officials in Wardstone, not to mention the prime minister’s daughter, rest her soul. Who hired him, we don’t know. And it’s not quite an accurate drawing either. He moves real damn quick so none of the “survivors” can see his actual looks – and he seldom leaves any “witnesses”. If anyone tries to chase him or even takes a glimpse of his face – that guy will end up dead before he can even blink. And I’m damn sure that none of the hunters here can match him…’
‘… Even me?’
‘… Even you. Don’t get insulted – that’s for your own good. It takes someone who can match his speed to take him down. The poster was sent to me a fortnight ago from the capital, and I decided to keep it down low until I have a chance to meet Kyflynn.’
Robert is curious. ‘Kyflynn?’
‘A night elf assassin – don’t tell me you don’t know him too.’
‘Only by reputation. I once overheard people talking in the tavern about the assassin who never killed good people – only monsters and criminals. And his speed is legendary too.’
‘Yeah. I believe he’s the only one who can match MacLair. Ah, shall we get on the business now?’
Hulferd moistens his lips then talks on.
‘Now this A’bong and his kobold gang are nomads, they came here about three months ago and they raid villages, caravans and ambush travellers – kill and pillage like bandits do. Only bandits sometimes spare people’s lives so they can rob them again in the future. By the way, our spies have found their lair in the cave in the West Harper Hills. Here’s a copy of the map, and you can find the location accurately drawn in it. A’bong uses a broad battle axe and well-armoured – I think he’s a veteran from The Gremion Wars that deserted his army after Gremion was forced to share its territory with Bresconnor. And the kobolds are eight – two large ones and six small ones – including two females.’
Hulferd pauses for a while, staring at Robert with concern. Then he sighs.
‘I know you always get excited when it comes to orcs, but as your friend and mentor I warn you – be extra careful this time. A’bong is not an ordinary orc. He is intelligent and has leadership qualities – real different than the orcs you hunted all these times. I think he used to be a captain or even a general. Better take a party with you along, don’t act alone.’
Robert replies in a calm, polite voice.
‘I understand, teacher. You always have been my helper and guide since I’m a greenhorn and only a bit skilled in the battlefield. You even saved my life several times. You taught me your sword moves and treated me like your son. I will never forget that.
But as always, I work alone. I always had this difficulty to deal with people, you know. And I bet no one will join me even though I tell them to handle the kobolds only and let me deal with the orc. For this once, teacher, let me handle this alone. If I can’t overcome this difficulty, I will never improve and I will be no different than others who only content themselves hunting jelly slugs, petty monsters and petty bandits.’
‘I see. But you surely won’t mind if I send one of my spies to keep an eye of you, so he can collect the heads and the proofs of your work – standard guild procedure.’
Robert nods. It seems that he doesn’t mind at all, because the guild usually send novice hunters as spies – an extra job – to learn from the experienced ones. Robert used to be a spy to assist Hulferd these three years.
Then Hulferd’s wife, Charlotte comes in. She’s 39, a plump lady but still pretty. Although never experienced real education, she has a keen judgment and a kind heart. She has two kids, Helen, 16, quite pretty just like her, and her younger brother, Pearce, 10 years old. Apparently Pearce is the same Pear that called Robert earlier. Pear has great intuition and a keen sense upon anything, just like his mother and great determination to improve himself just like his father. No wonder he immediately searched for Robert as he saw the poster before his father told him not to. Maybe someday he can become a great hunter just like his father.
Charlotte greets Robert enthusiastically – she also wants Robert to marry Helen someday, but apparently Helen already has a lover somewhere… and Robert too…
‘Oh, Robert! What a surprise!’
‘Good day, ma’am. Long time no see.’
‘A long time, indeed. Two months! Where have you been? Helen has been asking for you.’
Robert snorts and shows his rare, cold smile. How can that be, he thinks. Helen already has Albert, the bookworm. She must be in the library with him now. She is only interested in poetry and writing, and Robert doesn’t even have an interest in it – or even in her.
‘Really? Tell her I said hello. Oh yes, about Pear, just tell him to stay out of trouble. I’ve been staying in the tavern these days, and it’s getting rowdier each and every day.’
‘WHAT? Ah, Pear! That overactive son of yours, Ferdy. Give him a word or two once in a while, will you? What kind of father are you, letting him prowling around, huh?’
‘Aw, honey, don’t be like that. Just let him taste a bit of the real world, it’s good for him. He’s smart, and I’m sure he will be a good hunter one day, just like dear Rob here. Anyway I’m too busy with the guild and things…’
‘But at least a warning, so he can learn to be cautious – like dear Rob here.’
‘…. Perhaps too cautious.’
‘… Or too rash.’
Charlotte and Hulferd stare at Robert at the corner of their eyes with their strange faces. Robert stares at them with a puzzled face. He replies…
‘Hey, hey, don’t get angry, old fellas. I promise you I will keep an eye on Pear whenever I’m not at a job. Is that okay with you?’
Hulferd lands a slow jab on Robert’s shoulder.
‘Now that’s the spirit. Don’t let your cool hides who you really are.’
But THIS is who I REALLY am, Robert thinks.
Charlotte is not satisfied yet with Robert’s answer, and contorts…
‘And MOVE OUT from that smelly, flea-ridden Golden Ram Inn! And buy yourself a REAL house! I don’t want to see Pear play with you in that god-forsaken place every day! Gambling? Vadis forbids!’
Robert replies, ‘I’ll work something out, ma’am. I will.’
But a different thought comes into Robert’s mind.
Aw, we hunters still have to eat when there’s no job. And honest jobs will keep us out of monster-hunting. And I don’t have enough money to buy a proper house, either. Later, ma’am. Much later.
Charlotte snorts. She knows her bidding won’t be fulfilled in the near future, knowing very well of the hunters’ nature – namely her husband’s. But she finally resigns and goes to the kitchen to make some tea for Robert, Hulferd and herself.
‘All right then. Don’t leave yet, Robert. I still want to talk to you over a cup of tea.’
Robert nods. Although he knows that a talk with ‘Chatty’ Charlotte will be a boring one, but their kindness tops over anything in the world for him so he compels himself to stay a little longer – preparing his spirit for the most difficult job he has taken until now… with some pep talks and a healthy cup of tea.
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The FireHeart Project consists of three stories of the FireHeart Saga:
Episode 1: FireHeart - Heart of the Conqueror
Episode 2: FireHeart - The Quest For Freedom
Episode 3: FireHeart - Legend of the Paladins
For several reasons, I made Legend of the Paladins first and I'll present it in this blogsite as journal entries. I plan to make three books of the Paladins' Saga, consisting of:
Book 1: Chronicles of a Bounty Hunter
Book 2: Masks of the Soul
Book 3: The Eagle, the Lion, and the Serpent
I'll make it strict for the viewers of this site: I'll monitor the viewers and his/her profile, and the story will come in sub-chapters and parts, which I'll post gradually. There'll be also some sketches of the illustrations of the book (pardon the picture quality) to make reading this e-book more enjoyable.
I'm BJ Vadis, your host and the author of this E-Book, Blog, E-Novel.
Some of my posts are stored in Vadis official website : http://vadis.multiply.com
Also check out Yahoo! FireHeart Community at : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fire-heart
Well, enjoy the blog-book, dear fellows, play it fair and thanks for the feedbacks!
by BJ Vadis
IN THE SHADE OF THE MOON
‘A monster is not judged by its size and
ferociousness, but by the devastation it brought.’Sage the FireheartFounder, Fireheart Hunters’ GuildFirst Emperor of Arcadia
An Oddjob and an Orcjob
A boy runs in a hurry along the narrow streets of Rand. He bumps into people and tramples mud puddles along the way, leaving people cursing and yelling behind him – some even check their tunic to look whether the boy has stolen their purses or anything valuable. The streets are real crowded here in Rand – as the city in the kingdom of Lore becomes a center of economy and culture. Thanks to the hunters and the hunters’ guild, the risk of monsters and bandits’ attacks has been lessened – at least less than other major cities in Lore: Varestine, Wagnerport even the capital, Alceste. Merchants, caravans and travelers usually hire hunters as escorts, unless, perhaps they are well-skilled, well-armed and can defend themselves or hire personal bodyguards.
The boy ignores all the curses and yells upon him, and runs along several blocks until he enters a shabby-looking tavern with a yellowish ram with the text ‘The Golden Ram’ badly carved on a signboard hanging in front. The Golden Ram is the cheapest, shabbiest and dirtiest tavern-inn in Rand. The wine and ale there are bad, but it is always full of rowdy, strange and suspicious people with their own strange, shady businesses – gambling, brawling, having fun with tavern maidens, and even talking in low voices. Well, secret talks in loud voices can be made in here too, as it’s too loud there – rest assured your talks won’t be heard by the neighbor at the next table.
The boy looks around desperately, and once in a while ducks to avoid flying objects like wooden mugs, stones – fortunately no sharp ones, though. After a while, he finally notices someone and comes to a group of people gambling on a corner. They are shouting in frustration or muttering things like ‘Damn, he won again!’ and all sorts of curses. One of them – a man with silvery, unkempt hair - doesn’t yell, though and coolly extends his hands to collect the crowns (gold coins), florins (silver coins) and zennies (bronze coins) on the table and pour them all into his purse. Although he apparently is the winner, he doesn’t smile. He only stare cautiously around him, readies himself as though anticipating something bad. And it happens. One of the gamblers, an ugly, fat, unshaven and badly dressed man gets up, bangs on the table and puts his one foot on the chair, screaming.
‘You CHEATED! Bloody cheater!’
The two other gamblers are puzzled for a while, staring at him – but they instantly understand, and scream along to support him.
‘Yeah! Winning seven times already! That’s impossible!’
‘Must be sumthin’ behind ‘ees hands!’
‘And he ain’t even smile all the time! Mus’ be afraid he’s gonna be found out!’
‘Search him! Make him return our money!’
The cool silver-haired guy raises his face. He is handsome, although his face is sallow and looks somewhat feminine, but his calm, serious and cautious behavior gives an air of someone who has endured great hardships, tragedies and traumas. He always wears a leather breastplate in front of his shirt, and always ready with a kiliji (a curved long sword) neatly hung inside its scabbard under his shabby blue hood and robe. The boy recognizes him perfectly at once, and is about to call him, but the silver-haired man notices the boy and signals him to keep quiet and keep away.
‘Hey, won’ speak a word, eeh? No reveal your secret!?’
‘Maybe you will talk after we rearrange your pretty face!’
‘O’ you hungree? Wanna eat? Here, taste THIS!’
The bald man launches his knuckle sandwich towards the silver-haired man’s mouth, but the silver-haired man simply moves his head aside with great reflexes and avoids the hit altogether. He gets up, and is ready for the next attack.
One thought comes into the silver-haired man’s mind:
Even if I speak, these stupid brutes won’t listen – they just want to rob my winnings. Well, it’s time to show them who I really am, as Pear is already here…
To avoid revealing too much of him, the silver-haired man avoids most of the attacks using knuckles, knifes and a wooden chair, and finally counterattacks, catching the bald man’s punch and kicks him straight on his jaw, sending him flying backwards and falls crashing on the wall, knocking him out. The fat guy and the one-eyed scarface are astonished to see this display of strength, but thinking that it was only a lucky strike they attack the silver-haired guy altogether. The scarface’s attack misses, but the fat guy successfully hit the silver-haired guy’s shoulder as he is avoiding the scarface. But the silver-haired man’s expression doesn’t even change in pain, instead he ducks and sweep-kicks the fat guy’s feet, causing the fat guy to fall tumbling on the floor.
The one-eyed, badly-scarred man thinks. Damn! He’s too strong! I must get outta here!
And he runs away at once.
The fat guy tries to get up although he is irritated with his friend’s cowardly behavior. But the silver-haired man doesn’t waste time and instantly draws his kiliji and points it directly to the fat guy’s throat. Then he finally speaks.
‘Get out now. I only kill monsters and bandits, unless you are one of them.’
The fat guy whimpers, ‘Ah, you’re a hunter?’
A tavern guest cuts in.
‘You’re new in town, heh? He’s a hell of a hunter, you know.’
The little boy named Pear speaks, ‘Mister Orcbane?’
The silver-haired man replies, ‘Sssh, I’ve told you many times, just call me Robert.’
‘Aw, it’s easier to remember you as Orcbane, as it is so frequently said at the guild.’
‘Ah, Pear, now you’ve done it.’
Robert the Orcbane then talks to the fat man with a threatening tone.
‘Well, what will it be now? Still want to rob my money?’
‘Your money WHAT? You must be cheated, I can tell’.
‘I didn’t cheat.’
‘Then how come you won seven times and only lost twice?’
‘’Twas a dice game, right? Maybe you must learn about concentration *). Focus your mind and eye on the dice movements. Well, you must train them hard, because I got that kind of training once as a soldier and a scout in the Lore-Arcadia war.’
(* Concentration = What Robert means is Eagle’s Eye – the ability to notice very quickly or even the slightest movement from the objects from any distance. Besides training, one must have the talent – that is very uncommon among humans. An Eagle’s Eye expert is usually a good scout or spy. Robert has that talent.)
‘Damn, you’re a soldier! Then why did you lose twice?’
‘Even fools can guess that. I deliberately let you guys win so you won’t suspect me using concentration and you won’t want to gamble with me anymore. I know you guys are new in town because none of my old mates want to gamble with me again. I need to earn pocket money, you know as there is no orc to hunt…’
Suddenly Pear remembers something and cuts in.
‘Excuse me, Sir Orcbane, but now there is’.
‘It’s Robert, Pear, Robert.’
‘Yeah, Robert… Robert…’
‘Wait.. you said there’s an orc-job at the guild?’
‘Let’s go there! Here, Gumbold, for the food, ale and for the damage too’
Robert tosses several florins and zennies to Gumbold the tavern-innkeeper’s table, and a crown to the fat guy.
‘Here’s for you. No hard feelings mate. Treat your friends too.’
The fat guy doesn’t believe his eyes and ears. He is still sitting on the floor, astonished as he sees Robert and Pear rushing out from The Golden Ram tavern-inn.
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