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Sunday, May 28, 2006 The Citadel of Jeland

Robert wakes up three days later and finds himself in a strange room.

‘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.’

Robert blushes.

‘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.

‘You’re welcome.’

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.’

Walthorn smiles.

‘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 Chandler, yes? Chandler… Emmerich Chandler… ah, yes, I do recall something about the Chandlers. Your dad was in my service, and did some jobs from me to hunt fierce monsters in the region. And your mom once presented me with a tunic when I visited Emmerich in Arkvale. It’s very fine, I can tell. And I ordered some more from her for years and still wear them until today. You’re just about five, then and I know you had a sister.’

‘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.’

‘Hunters, Sir?’

‘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 noon. 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

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