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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Alagaesia News




Christopher Paolini at the Comicon International: San Diego with members of Shurtugal

Kvetha Fricaya! Greetings Friends!

News! Last month, I traveled to Los Angeles and visited Fox studios, where I met some of the many people involved with the Eragon movie.

I also got to watch clips of the film itself. It was both strange and exciting to see images based on something I wrote! The teaser trailer Fox showed me contained only brief glimpses of the world and characters, although a dragon is always memorable, no matter how fleeting her appearance. The other sequences I saw were in various stages of completion—with rough CGI and temporary music—but even so, I got a pretty good idea of how the scenes will play in the final version of the movie. Based on the footage I saw, Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Brom. He and Ed Speleers (Eragon) seem to interact very well, with the sort of old-wolf, young-wolf dynamic the story requires.

I learned that the reason Fox made certain changes to the book was to produce a movie that looks and feels as real as possible. For example, in the novel, I describe Saphira as having sapphire-blue scales. When they applied this color to her on-screen form, however, she looked cartoonish. So after much testing, they settled on a leathery-blue skin tone, which makes her appear more like a living creature. And I saw how, bit-by-bit, computer animators are bringing Saphira to life. Fox is pushing the boundaries of current technology. The time needed to create her is so great that work is now divided between ILM, in California, and WETA, in New Zealand.

As with every book-to-movie adaptation, the filmmakers have their own vision of the story. I learned that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been and are working on Eragon. I look forward to seeing more, to get a better idea of how the plot flows and the characters interact. The way I think about it is that Eragon provided the inspiration for the movie, but that they are separate works with their own unique attributes. I find it fascinating to see how other people interpret the land of Alagaësia. It’s like seeing my own dreams reflected back to me through a thousand different prisms.

After my visit to the studio, I went to the offices of Vivendi, the company behind the Eragon video games. To be precise, Vivendi is distributing the games, while Stormfront Studios (Lord of the Rings games) is the company that actually developed them. The people who work there have some of the best jobs in the world.

As I count it, four-and-a-half Eragon games are developed. There’s an action adventure game for consoles and PC, a dragon flight combat game for the PSP, and a different RPG for the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance respectively. The half I mentioned comes from the fact that the Xbox 360 version of the main console/PC game not only has beefed up graphics, but two new levels that further explore the world of the book. One level even has the Kull in it! To my delight, the game designers made the Kull look almost exactly as I originally imagined them, horns and all. Even though I invented them, I have to admit that the sheer size of the Kull surprised me. I knew they were big, but to actually see one next to Eragon . . . Wow!

Given that I haven’t played the games from start to finish, what I did see was exciting. Controlling a computer-generated version of an actor portraying the character of Eragon or Brom or Murtagh in a video game based upon a movie adaptation of a book I wrote . . . is certainly one of the most surreal and weirdly enjoyable experiences of my life. You can run around and hack-and-slash things, and if you press the right buttons, Eragon shoots a magic arrow and shouts, “Brisingr!”. Very cool.

I next drove to San Diego to speak and sign books at Comic-Con International: San Diego, one of the largest science fiction and fantasy conventions in the world. For those of you who have never attended Comic-Con International before, here’s a brief description: Imagine a large, modern, multistory convention center designed to hold about seventy thousand people. Over a hundred thousand people show up. Some wear clothes you see every day on the street and in the office. Others dress in black leather and plastic or skin-tight unitards or Stormtrooper armor or large gold wings or strange contraptions that make avant-garde fashion appear dowdy or, quite often, almost nothing at all. A wall of heat, humidity, sound, and moving bodies hits you as soon as you set foot on the convention floor. Display booths are everywhere: large, loud, blinking, flashing, moving, crawling. Costumes . . . movies . . . games . . . comics, cartoons, graphic novels, and manga everywhere. Swords everywhere. And if you love even some of this stuff, your head feels as if it’s about to explode from the amount of input.

Before my events began, I visited the Vivendi booth and spent some more time playing the PS2 Eragon game. How could I not? At Comic-Con? I’m still grinning from the memory.

My speaking event was structured as an interview, with renowned author Peter Beagle asking me questions on writing, fantasy, and what it means to be an author. Peter is a wonderful person: wise, generous, and full of stories. It was an honor to meet him, and I’m glad he agreed to do the event with me. The highlight of it came when a thirteen-year-old girl stood up, said it was her birthday, and asked if I would sing her Happy Birthday! Fortunately, everyone else joined in and helped me out.

Peter is an amazing writer, an icon of the fantasy genre. Some of his books include The Last Unicorn, The Inkeeper’s Song, and his most recent, The Line Between. His plots and prose occupy that magical place between waking life and sleep, between reality and dreams. If you’re interested in checking out his work go to conlanpress.com (click on Books).

After the interview, I signed copies of my books. I love signings because it’s an opportunity for me to meet my readers face-to-face. Some of the stories I hear are remarkable. One man told me he had flown from London, just to get his book signed!

As soon as the last person came through the line, I was whisked into a taxi, off to the airport, and onto a plane only minutes before a flight attendant closed the hatch.

That was my California adventure. It was a hectic trip, but I had a great time. Still, as much as I enjoyed it, the only thing that matters now is Book III. It looms above me like a giant mountain. Every page is a step forward, and while many steps lie behind me, my journey to the summit is not yet over.

May your swords stay sharp,

Christopher Paolini


*********************************************

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Carolyn the Sorceress - Characters

Class : Sorceress

Race : Half-Elf

Nation : Thyrine > Valanis > Arcadia

Best Weapon : Esthagar - Eye Of The Storm – Magic Staff + Trident + Halberd

First Armor : Common travelling dress

Best Armor : Enchanted Dress of Hayjal-Beruna (Fire and Rainclouds)

Accessories : Yggdrasil’s Necklace of Luck

Guardian : Aegis the Thunderbird (Guardian Force of Lightning)

Skills / Spells :

Elemental Mastery : Fire and Lightning

(During Book One)

Fire Spells :

- Agnios : Fireball

- Polyagnios : Rain of Fireballs

- Pyroagnios : Fireblast

- Severagnios : Firestorm

- Cineragnios : Incinerate

- Agnioparadh : Wall of Fire

- Inferno : Hellfire (with Algaban’s assistance)

Lightning Spells :

- Voltarus : Lightning Bolt

- Magnavoltarus : Lightning Blast

- Xacravenos : Wrath of the Skies (reinforced by Aegis)

- Megavoltarus : Jolt Shock

- Polyvoltarus : Chain Lightning

- Zydaros : Chained Ball Lightning

3.1.6.2. The Red Envelope and the Treasure Map (Part Two)


Meanwhile, Robert has just finished his bath in the inn bathroom and walks to his room. His face looks a bit relaxed, but he can’t stop thinking why a girl can make him adapt a healthy, clean lifestyle he hated, that was compelled to him during his service to Duke Walthorn and his days in the Marlham Palace.

‘Bathing at least once a day is for royalties, for Vadis’ sake. For us commoners and adventurers, once a week or once a month is just satisfactory for a perfect health. And this “cooked well done” meal policy... In the forests, the options are only “medium rare” or “burnt black”. Huh, are you a royalty or something? Just loosen yourself, will you, and learn the ways of the hunter.’ Robert once said that in an argument with Carolyn.

To this, Carolyn responded with, ‘This is for your own good, Rob. A healthy habit will max up your hunting performance. You need to stand against the competition and face danger every day, right? Get the job done before anybody else. You need to be thankful that I didn’t force you to be a vegetarian.’

‘But, I’m at the max of my performance!’

‘No, you’re not. Remember Grad.’

Andreas who was listening to them at that time added a comment, ‘Aye, she’s got a point, you know.’

Robert plainly can’t make up any more excuses to win the argument. His face expression stayed cool, and he kisses his ring habitually.

‘I take that as “agreed”,’ said Carolyn in triumph.

Robert’s recollection ends as he reaches the door to his room. Sighing, he opens the door and goes inside. As he rubs his towel on his hair to make sure his hair is dry enough, he glimpses onto his table and surprise comes on his face.

He sees a strange red envelope lying there. Robert comes closer and although his face resumes being expressionless as usual, Robert does feel curious and cautious to go near the envelope, even to open it. The envelope has the name ‘Robert Chandler, Monster Hunter’ written on it. Robert tears the envelope open. Only a piece of parchment is inside. The parchment is blank, but then dots of ink appear on it, forming a series of words. Robert thinks this must be an enchanted letter, a very important letter written and sent by a very important person. Only kings and anyone important than a king use this.

So, as the words are complete, Robert reads the letter. There’s no signature and sender’s name on it. No seal or anything. Robert reads the letter anyway, and then his eyes are widened, his expression changes to a mild surprise. Robert then closes the letter and takes it with him as he walks out from his room towards Father Andreas’ room.

He hears Father Andreas in there with Carolyn. They are praying with murmuring voices. Robert can’t hear what they say clearly, although anyone can pray to Vadis with any language he or she is fluent with. Robert just stands in front of the room, and waits there because it is inappropriate to interrupt a praying in progress. Maybe this is the answer of their prayer, Robert thinks, staring at the envelope on his hand.

The praying finishes in a while. Robert comes in and finds Father Andreas and Carolyn on their knees on the floor. Andreas sees Robert and says, ‘Hi, Rob, what’s up?’

Robert answers, ‘Hmm. The next time you two want to pray together, be sure to call me, okay? We’re a party, and we’re like a family. So I have the right to know what’s going on...’

Andreas interrupts him hastily, saying, ‘Oh, ‘twas nothing, really. Carolyn just came here to ask about... er... some Vadisian dogmas. Just a little thirst to quench, it’s no big deal. So, what’s on your mind?’

Robert feels that Andreas is trying to hide something from him, but he decides not to inquire about this any further, as there’s a more pressing matter at hand. He talks,

‘I just found a letter in a red envelope on my desk, with my name on it. It has no sender’s name, and I think we’ve got a job from a mysterious person. Here, take a look.’

Robert puts the envelope on the table. Carolyn picks it up and is going to read it, but she sees no word on it. She exclaims with surprise,

‘Hey, this letter is blank! And you said you’ve read it?’

‘Yes. The letters appeared by the time I saw it.’

Andreas says with a nod, ‘Hmm. This letter is enchanted. Only the person it is addressed can read this. We apply this magic in Valanis. I happened to write this sort of letter, by Pope Xylen’s order. But anyone other than the pope can send this letter. She never used red envelopes before.’

‘It seems I have to read it to you guys,’ Robert concludes, taking the letter and reads it to his comrades. The letter says,

To whom this may concern;

We hereby ask you to undertake this urgent task of great importance. This concerns the future and the people of Aurelia. The great sword of Deathblade Zweihänder is known as the confinement of the vanquished Dark Lord Vordac’s spirit. We just heard a rumor that a person that is appointed by The Dark Lord as his ‘heir’ is attempting to retrieve the sword, use it, free The Dark Lord’s spirit and become Vordac’s new host.

So, please stop him. Kill him, as he is as corrupted as Adair, the Sodomos himself. The sword is kept in Enia’s Sanctum, in a dormant volcano in Western Aurelia. One of our agents will find you, give you directions and guide you there. If you succeed, you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams by the grace of Vadis and Enia.

May Vadis’ blessing be with you and takes you to safety and success in your mission.

The letter has The Pope of Valanis’ seal on its bottom. Carolyn reacts after Robert finished reading the letter, ‘Enia’s Sanctum! Enia, the Mother of Eternia! I was from Thyrine, and my mother sent me to Valanis to learn Vadisian instead of Enian! And this place, even we Thyrinians don’t know where it is! These ‘agents’ must be the selected few who actually know where the place is! We MUST do this mission – just skip the rewards – by Vadis’ sake!’

Andreas puts his hand on his chin, rubbing his beard with his fingers. He is thoughtful at the moment, trying to recall any information in his memory and link this to this matter at hand. Robert and Carolyn is thoughtful too, they must calculate every risk and prepare for anything.

‘This Vordac’s heir must be powerful,’ Robert says.

‘But no one, even the sender knows not who he is. So they invite each and every possible person with power, and one among them must be him,’ says Andreas.

‘But how can we determine Vordac’s heir among the invitees? Remember, they all will go there to “protect” the sword.’

‘It’s a mystery. The heir can be you or me. The answer is there, hidden in our hearts. I think our best bet is anyone who wants to use the sword. The Deathblade is known as an all-powerful enchanted two-hand sword, once wielded by the Invader of Arcadia, Duke Mildred Urganon, bastard son of The Archmage of Chaos, Mandrach Urganon. A jet-black sword, with a winged devil carved on its hilt. A true rival for the Angelic Sword of Justice with an angel carved on its hilt.’ Andreas keeps trying to recall anything he knows about Deathblade Zweihänder and its grim history.

Carolyn cuts in, ‘So, the Deathblade itself can be the reward, right? I mean, the heir may only free Vordac’s spirit without wanting to use the sword. Without Vordac’s spirit, the sword can be used by anyone without having to be Vordac’s heir. So, the only way we can find out is to go there and choose which side we wanted to be in: sword protectors or sword claimers. I heard some traps are also set there too, and some powerful monsters also guard it.’

Robert responds, ‘So, we can choose to stay out of this responsibility and resume our lives and professions, no matter how good or how bad the situation may get.’

Carolyn nods. ‘Yes, we can let the others do the dirty job ‘for mankind’ and get the whole package of glory, wealth and fame. But I’m afraid Chris won’t stay out of this. He’ll go for the sword, with or without us.’

Andreas sighs, ‘Ah, that greedy chap is going to be our doom. Anyway, we haven’t seen him since morning. I wonder where he is now.’

Carolyn snorts, ‘No need to worry about him. He’s a big boy, he’ll be home when all his pocket money are all spent, fooling around in the town.’

‘Uh-huh. All we have to do now is prepare for anything, and wait for the so-called ‘agent’ to find us, and then we can say to him that we’re not interested to take the mission. It’s settled then.’ Robert finally made a decision.

‘But we have to tell Chris about this too, because – like it or not – he’s one of us.’ Andreas reminds them.

As soon as they finished talking about it and change to another subject: whether they should leave town tomorrow or take a job or two again, the door springs open. It’s Chris. He hurriedly comes in and talks real fast and gasps, as though he’s out of breath.

‘Oh, here you are, Rob. And you guys too! Man, I’ve searched in your rooms! Guys, check this out! This is the quest of our lifetime!’ Chris takes out something from his pocket and spreads it in front of his comrades.

‘What is this? A treasure map or something?’ says Carolyn.

‘This IS a treasure map!’

‘It’s a bad children’s drawing if you ask me, a bad phony map to fool babies.’ says Andreas.

‘Hey, I paid a fortune for this, you know! I know this map is for real!’

‘How much did you pay for this, Chris?’ Robert asks patiently.

‘Well... eleven crowns.’

‘WHAT?’ Carolyn looks enraged. ‘That’s almost all your pocket money for this month! How come you can be so stupid?’

‘Gee, that geezer who sold me this map said it’s worth fifty crowns, but I said I only have ten, so after much haggling he finally gave up and sold me this map.’

Robert asks again, ‘Did he tell you what sort of treasure plotted in this map?’

‘Errr... honestly I didn’t hear him quite clearly, I was heavily drunk at that time. He did mention something about an ancient sword... once wielded by a king... and it’s worth a zillion times more than the ten crowns I’ve spent.’

‘Hmmm... This is interesting.’ Robert puts his hand below his chin on hearing this. ‘Maybe he’s the “agent” we’re looking for.’

‘Huh? What agent? Is there something I don’t know?’

‘And now we’re telling you about it, and sooner if you didn’t come late.’

Robert tells Chris all about the letter with the red envelope, and the mysterious mission.

‘And now that we’ve got the map from the agent, what are we waiting for? Let’s search for it, and guard it from the so-called “heir of a devil”. And if in any case the spirit is freed from it, we can still use the sword, right? Or sell it for a fortune.’ Chris is as excited as a schoolboy as he says it.

‘No, Chris. We’re not going to undertake it.’ says Robert.

Chris is open-mouthed with disbelief, and he protests...

‘How can you guys make such decision? I’ve paid a fortune for this map! And this is the big thing we’ve been waiting for since our escape from Grad! I say we take it, and follow this map!’

‘No, Chris. I smell something fishy about this mission. We don’t know from whom we received this letter. What if the sender neglects to give us the reward if we succeed? And the odds will be a million to zero, that if we can still be alive. Think, Chris! Another big job will come sooner or later, and we better be straight and safe for now. Hunting down Sheena Mekh’ta is our top priority right now. Sorry for your allowance, but the answer is still no.’

Chris can’t contain himself any longer. He bangs the table, shouting,

‘THAT’S IT! I’m sick and tired of you! Yippin’ and yappin’ all around, but when a big opportunity comes, you guys just back off? Some hunting party! Huh! I’m outta here!’

Saying that, Chris snatches the map from Andreas’ hand and hurriedly gets out from the room, slamming the door behind him. Robert is indifferent; Carolyn and Andreas get up and try to stop him. But Chris already locked himself inside his room. Andreas sighs and says, ‘Hmph. Maybe a night’s sleep will get Chris back to his senses.’ Carolyn shakes her head disapprovingly.

‘I won’t count on that. Trust me, he won’t. He’ll go daringly, searching the sword by himself, I know him’.

‘But it’s not wise to break the door, barge into his room and make a fuss to force him to change his mind. It won’t get any better but worse.’

‘You’re right, father.’ Carolyn sighs, ‘Oh well, guess we’ll have to wait until morning so he’ll be in a cooler head by then.’

==oOo==

The next day, early in the morning, Carolyn goes to Christopher’s room. She knocks the door, saying, ‘Wake up, Chris! Hey, wake up!’

There’s no answer.

‘Get your lazy butt up now! We’ve decided to leave town today to avoid the agents as far away as possible, and you better get prepared now! We’ll leave at seven!’ *)

(* Note that this story uses time measurement that’s similar to modern Earth time, thanks to the Parthenian time mages who invented it.)

Still no answer.

Carolyn eventually loses her patience and she starts to bang on the door, and the door opens as she does that. It’s not locked. Carolyn goes in, and finds no one there. She is highly furious and walks out from Chris’ door, stamping her feet as Robert comes near. He asks Carolyn without showing any surprise on his face.

‘What’s going on, Carol? You look mad!’

‘Chris is gone! He has deserted us!’

‘What?’ Robert is a bit surprised. ‘No way. Maybe he’s taking a morning stroll to clear his mind.’

‘No, no. Believe me, he’s gone! I knew him. And he took all his things too! And no farewell note!’

‘That’s a very stupid thing to do. It’s a sheer suicide, going there without proper qualifications or very strong companions.’ Andreas says that, arriving at the spot on hearing Carolyn’s yells.

Robert says, ‘Naturally, other people will see him as a liability and let him go to his doom. But I have chosen him; I’ve sworn to guide him so he can be independent and dependable. So we better search for him.’

Andreas replies, ‘You’re right. A liability or not, he’s one of us. The only trouble is, we don’t know where to start. The map is with him.’

‘And without me to point the directions, Chris will be lost anywhere he goes.’ Suddenly Carolyn comes up with an idea. ‘Hey, we can use Chiel to track him down. He can sense Chris’ aura from a great distance, so we can follow him.’

Andreas claps his hands in awe. ‘Haha, good idea, Carol. Fabulous animal, that Micha. I was right to entrust him to you, after all.’

No sooner than it’s said, Chiel the micha comes flying into the corridor, with a loud, continuous ‘chi, chi, chiii...’ voice as though it wants Robert, Andreas and Carol to follow it.

‘...and great instinct, too.’ Andreas’ eyes are widened. ‘C’mon, let’s pack, don’t waste any more time, let’s follow him!’

They quickly pack their things, settle the payments at the front desk and walk quickly to follow Chiel. Andreas talks on with awe, ‘He must’ve followed Chris at a distance, and returned to us when he’s sure where Chris is going to.’

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Freedom Within

The true freedom is when we are free to follow our heart and choose our own ways.
 
The limit of our freedom is other people's freedom.
We cannot be free when we are oppressed, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Other people's will can oppress us. Other people's principles and idealism can oppress us.
Sometimes we are oppressed by our own principles, idealism and limitations.
 
So fight on, free your mind, clear your view and feel the freedom within.
 
Celebrating 61st Indonesian Independence Day
August 17, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

3.1.6.2. The Red Envelope and the Treasure Map (Part One)


Two months after their escape from Grad, Robert Chandler and his hunting party keep on doing hunting jobs in Borgia. With a new addition, Andreas Marvellini the healer, Robert’s party becomes more active and they can finish their hunts a lot quicker and easier than before. Andreas Marvellini’s good nature and a fair sense of humor also add cheerfulness in their journeys.

There’s still no lead or clue whatsoever of Sheena Mekh’ta’s whereabouts. They don’t know about Sheena’s defeat against Kyflynn’s party. No clues in the taverns either, because Sheena’s party avoided the towns and returned straight to their hideout to regroup with her remaining gang members.

So, here they are, Robert, Carolyn, Chris and Andreas, hunting monsters and criminals for bounty, or simply to help the helpless. Chris’ swordplay is getting better and better, thanks to Robert’s constant training and motivation boost from Andreas. He gradually gains better ground in spars with Robert, now that he mastered Sword Bash and Three-point Chain Strike skill.

One clear day, Robert and Andreas come into the hunters’ guild at Ingvhus, a newly developed town in Borgia that enjoys fast progress because it is located at the trade route and between Arcadia, Borgia, Thyrine and Regia. They are carrying two large sacks. They go directly into the proof collection room, and take out the contents of their sacks - goblin and dire wolf’s heads - on the floor.

The clerks count them, a total of seven goblin’s heads and five dire wolf’s heads, and an ample supply of dire wolf ankle bones. Another clerk scribbles and signs a receipt and hands it to Andreas to be exchanged with money at the cashier. And soon they come out from the guild with a small purse of money. They deposit part of the money in Melchior Safehouse and Warehouse, and bring back the rest for daily use.

They go back to the inn and take a rest for the day before browsing for the next job tomorrow or go to the next city in pursuit and search of Sheena Mekh’ta and her gang.

Carolyn is already there in the inn. As the bookkeeper of the party, she is responsible of managing finances, allowances, and supplies. She is scribbling something in her ledger, as Andreas puts the money in the table in front of her, saying, ‘I can use some money. My staff needs polishing.’

Carolyn says, ‘Of course.’ She counts the money, writes in her ledger, and gives some to Andreas with a smile on her face. That’s how the management work in Robert’s hunting party.

However, the discipline doesn’t work for everyone. Christopher, on the other hand, doesn’t quite follow the routines and do any of those errands except from cleaning his trusty sword Wyrthal. He strolls around the town and looks around for taverns and any place of leisure, to entertain himself in his day off today. His mind is quite disturbed with the fact that her cousin Carolyn gives more attention to Robert and her own tasks than to him. Also, he feels dead bored of hunting monsters without a real challenge since their misadventure in Grad.

He doesn’t face much difficulty in slaying monsters anymore, and now it seems like a daily routine for him. Sometimes he longed for home, but a thought of his father who favors his elder brother more than him blows his longing away.

Chris asks around, and he finally arrives at a tavern in Ingvhus town, called ‘Damor’ülan’ in ancient Borgian language, and it was more frequently called, ‘The Two Spurs’. It’s a filthy, damp tavern, much like the Golden Ram tavern-inn in Rand, Lore.

Chris goes straight to the bar. The bar keeper is a woman in her forties. She wears a tight dress, which has a broad opening in the front, showing a black butterfly tattoo on top of her breast. Judging from her appearances, some may think she must be quite pretty and attractive in her youth, and assume that she was a tavern maid, then got married with the tavern master and after her husband died, she inherited all his property, tavern and money. As a matter of fact, that kind of assumption is nearly true, except for her appearance. She only tries to look as bitchly attractive and sexy as possible in spite of her obviously plain face.

The bar mistress looks at Chris with interest. But as she notices Chris’ childish behavior, she pretends to look to another direction and busy. Chris didn’t notice that, but as he sits on the bar he feels like the bar mistress ignores him. Chris is upset, and talks with a loud voice to the bar mistress. ‘Excuse me, ma’am. Some service, please.’

The bar mistress responds lazily. ‘Yeah, kiddo. whaddya want?’

‘A bottle of your best ale, for starters.’

‘Ale? A-le? Well, kiddo, you must be new in town, eh? The best drink here is not ale. Ale is for kids and losers. Try our special, Barabus, the drink of champions. Of course, if you’re not tough enough...’

Hearing the name ‘Barabus’ mentioned, all tavern guests start to shout together. ‘Ba-ra-bus! Ba-ra-bus!’ and some even chant about ‘Barabus’ in a poem.

For the toughest amongst us,

For he who tamed a Pegasus,

Just prove yourself to us,

Drink the Barabus

Ale and rum are for fungus,

Nothing than to make a fuss,

If your name is in an opus,

Drink the Barabus

The more Chris looks hesitated, the louder and louder the shouting and chanting becomes. Under the sheer pressure of it, Chris finally says, ‘All right! All right! Barabus it is! Just stop the shouts already! I just want a bit of entertainment for a change.’

The bar mistress starts pouring and mixing, and she seems applying all sorts of liquids she can find into one in a wooden mixing cup. She covers the cup with another cup and starts mixing its contents vigorously and gracefully. The process lasts about a few minutes, and then she pours the mixture into another wooden cup and pushes the cup to Chris. Chris looks into the goblet, and he is astounded to see the color of the so-called ‘Barabus’ drink.

It’s a mixture of yellowish-green-aquamarine liquid with bubbles popping out of it. It looks like a rainbow-colored lava pit. And the smell is strong like any common alchemy potion or some corrosive acid. Chris winces a bit, partly by disgust, partly insecure, and partly afraid.

‘Go on. Drink it,’ says the bar mistress. ‘If you can drink it to the bottom, you don’t have to pay for it.’

Chris reacts at this statement as though he just wakes up from a nightmare upon this prospect and says, ‘Okay, okay!’

He holds the cup with shaky hands. And slowly, hesitantly, he draws it towards his mouth. He frowns with his eyes shut; bearing the strong stench that enters through his nostrils. Then he opens his mouth and let a little amount of liquid from the cup flow into his mouth. Then he lets out a sudden jerk, a shock like someone being poisoned, with his tongue stuck out. The bar mistress laughs loudly.

‘Hahaha! “Barabus” is too strong for ye, kiddo! Five Crowns! Pay it up and get outta here before... ‘

‘WOW! This tastes GREAT!’

The bar mistress didn’t expect that reaction from Chris. Chris goes for a big gulp on his drink, and cleans up his cup with one more.

‘AWESOME! Do you have any more? Make it again!’

The bar mistress is shocked. This little kid said ‘Barabus’ is delicious! She hesitates a little bit, whether to make another cup or not, and then after a long pause she talks,

‘Just one free cup per customer, nosiree!’

‘Aw, man! That’s too bad because I’m just ready for more!’

The bar mistress tries to prevent Chris from drinking Barabus again, for she will suffer more loss if she has to give away more of that most expensive drink for free.

‘Well, er... no need! No need! You’ve proven yourself a champion! A real man! By the way, my name’s Frida, my lad. Well, what do you want to drink now? Some more ale, perhaps?’

Chris answers, ‘Ah, no, thanks. I think I’ll just stroll around the town and ... er, looking at things.’

‘Ah, that’s too bad. You see, our ale is the best in town. No one ever leave this tavern without tasting our ale. Or... ah, perhaps the ‘Barabus’ gave you a kick already?’

‘Oh, no, no, no! By all means, no!’ Says Chris hastily. ‘It’s just... just... the ambience, you know. I think I’ll spend the rest of my day in some quiet, natural place like that nice food stall around the corner ...’ Chris twitches his lips aside, making a strange, stupid smile. At this, Frida only sighs and says,

‘Oh well, if you insist. Just as I began to enjoy this conversation with a handsome man like you.’

‘Thanks for the compliment and the “Barabus”, ma’am. Gotta roll now. Bye!’

Without waiting for an answer, Chris hastily goes out from the tavern. Frida only watches him leave, and after Chris is out, she makes a sign towards the guests. And one of them, an ugly, elderly man wearing shabby clothes with bald patches on his head among his grayish-white hair, approaches the bar. Frida frowns a bit, trying to avoid smelling the stench of that man. But she quickly composes herself again and talks,

‘You see that red-haired lad just now, Angus? He managed to drink my “Barabus” for free. Follow him and do your thing. He’ll be all too easy now.’

‘Oh yea, ma’am! Leave it to ol’ Angus ‘ere! Hak, hak, hak... !’

Angus immediately pulls his hood covering his head, and walks outside the tavern. The way he walks is so weird that one may mistake him with an oversized penguin.

==oOo==

Chris walks hurriedly on the road from the tavern, and as he is at a good distance away, he turns into a narrow alley. And then he throws up. Profusely, as though all the things he ate today also come out with the indigestible part of ‘Barabus’. It seems the ‘Barabus’ effect has started to work on him, and he looks very sick and of course, drunk. It was a good thing that he got out from Frida’s tavern and Frida refused to give him another free batch of that horrible, inhumane, filthy ‘drink of the champions’, or matters would be far worse.

After a long while, after emptying up the contents of his stomach and the ‘Barabus’ in his body, Chris drops himself, sitting on the alleyway a bit away from the vomited stuff on the ground, trying to recover himself, half-conscious and half-sleeping.

People avoid going near him and even turning around if they already got in the alleyway, cursing at Chris and the filth and stench he caused. Only a man approaches him. A thin, hooded man with shabby clothes who walks like a penguin – Angus. Angus shakes Chris and tries to wake him up, yelling,

‘Hey, you! Wake up! WAKE UP!’

But Chris snores instead. He’s already asleep.

Running out of patience, Angus slaps Chris. This time Chris lets out a loud, ‘YEOOW!!!’ and curses, ‘What the hell... ! Who slapped me?’ and seizes and is going to hit the one who did that.

Angus is bewildered and pleads to Chris to release him, saying, ‘It’s me, me! Please release me, mister. I meant ye no harm.’

‘No harm, eh? The slap enough was harmful! At least fer ye!’

‘Please, sir. Please, mercy for this old soul. If I didn’t wake you, you’ll be a sitting duck for all the pickpockets, robbers and ruffians in this town!’

Chris has not recovered from his nausea, and Angus’ stench and filthy appearance only makes it worse. Repulsively, Chris says, ‘What do you want? Leave me! Get you hand off me!’

Angus replies, ‘Hey, easy, easy, lad. I’m no tryin’ ter rob ye or anythin’! Just want ter ask ye a favor... ‘

‘Huh, most likely!’ Chris snorts.

‘And give ye the chance o’ yer lifetime! Hak, hak, hak!’

‘Don’t talk rubbish, filthy old man! I’m leaving!’

Chris tries to get up and leave, but he falls halfway. The Barabus’ effect is still strong within him.

‘Now, now, yeh’re still weak, lad. Just lemme finish me words, an’ I’ll split, dig!?’

Without waiting for Chris’ answer, Angus talks on in a hushed up voice. ‘Now listen ... ‘

3.1.6. Deathblade Part One : The Spirit of Temperance
















CHAPTER SIX

DEATHBLADE PART I:

THE SPIRIT OF TEMPERANCE


It is Time


It is time.

A woman wakes up from her bed, startled, as though hearing voices from afar.

Time to rise again.

The voice is getting clearer and clearer. It’s not a dream.

My heir is coming. He’ll break me free from this prison.

It’s a telepathic message – a spiritual message. The woman holds her head with her two hands. She is in pain, mentally.

It’s time. I’m coming.

The woman have a very long, silky, sky blue hair. She is extremely beautiful, and the pupils on her eyes are sparkling, like sapphires in her eyes. And her face looks dreadfully worried. She murmurs, ‘The volcano is about to erupt. I must do something.’

She gets up from her bed, and goes out from her large bedroom still wearing her overly long night gown, elaborately made for royalty. And it was made of a thin, rare fabric, softer and thinner than silk, its color is white with gold linings.

‘Something must be done now.’

Sunday, August 06, 2006

3.1.2. The Wheel of Fortune (The Earliest Draft)

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
'Cause 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,
Giving life joy, warmth and peace
O' sweet love, sweet love,
Nothing compares the greatness of love


The Ballad of Love and Peace
- by Keith Arnûviel, Elf Bard, The Loremaker


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?’

‘Hear what?’

‘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…

‘Tisha…!’

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.

‘Tisha! Tisha!!!!’

Robert gets no response, but he keeps on calling.

‘Tisha!’

Then Laetitia looks at him from afar, and gets up, still crying.

‘Robert!’

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…

‘TISSSHAAAAA!!!!’

‘Rob… eert…’

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.

The Old Duke and the Silver Haired Boy

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.’

‘Damn monsters!’

‘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!’

‘What, Rosso?’

‘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.’

‘Lemme check…’

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.

‘Captain James!’

‘Yes, sire?’

‘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…

‘My sword…’

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.’

‘B… but…’

‘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.’

‘Oh… kaay…’

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 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 could rally 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 Vadis’ 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 Vadis, 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 Vadis’ 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 neither looks happy nor disappointed – just expressionless as usual. Then he climbs his bed and is drowned in his thoughts.

End of Chapter Two

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