Chapter 3 “The Hunt”
The air was breezing by fast, and the smell of grasslands entered Aiden’s nostrils. As he began to awaken, he could feel sharp bumps creep up throughout his body. He was being embraced. As Aiden came to, he noticed he was on a horse galloping in the open fields. Two hands were rested on the reins as he noticed the cloaked man behind him steering the horse. Aiden grasped the lingering pain in his chest.
“Rise and shine.” Allen noticed Aiden awaken.
“It’ll hurt for awhile. You took a mean punch.”
Aiden looked around and saw only green, and hills as far as the eye could see.
“Where are we?”
“The safest place for you right now, Crueg.” Allen popped a small grin.
“I guess your memory still hasn’t returned.”
“…Sorry” Aiden’s head slowly descends into his chest.
“Don’t worry about it. It seems your body still remembers.”
Aiden was still cloudy as to the previous days events.
“You awakened your aspect.”
“What you did back there was unexplainable.”
“…I don’t get it.”
“You went head to head with one of the most powerful warriors in the kingdom of Amar.”
“Yes, and you used your aspect to do it.”
Aiden looked at his bare hands and could see nothing of interest. It didn’t help that he was just a child and even then could barely believe he did any kind of fighting.
“You know Aiden, it takes most Amaranth years to do what you did.”
“I’m so confused…” Aiden shook his head and grasped it.
“You are an Amaranth, Aiden. We have special gifts bestowed onto us at your age. You chose agility, which greatly enhances your speed, and reflexes. And as I said, most Amaranth take years to awaken their gift. They train for it.”
“This is all so strange…” Aiden couldn’t grasp the idea.
“It’ll come back to you. Your body is already halfway there. But for now…”
Allen comes to a stop in a little village town. As Allen finishes fastening the horse’s reins, he walks a few hundred yards out into the field.
“What now?” Aiden questions.
“I need to send word…”
Allen lets out a sharp whistle. After a few minutes an eagle swoops down and lands on Allen’s forearm.
“Whoa!” Aiden remarks with excitement.
“This is Phalanx.” Allen strokes the eagles feathers.
“Awesome!” Aiden was still in awe.
Allen begins to shuffle in his satchel, “Where did I put it?”
After a few seconds Allen takes out a piece of parchment paper. He scribbles something down and then hands it to Phalanx. The eagle proceeds to eat the parchment paper.
“Why is he eating it?”
“Most messenger birds seen carrying a parchment or scroll in their talons are shot down. Phalanx keeps the messages he delivers close to his heart.” Allen smiles.
“I see. What did you write?”
“I’m sending word of our situation to a close friend.”
Allen whispers a few words into Phalanx’s ears as the eagle flew off into the sky. Allen then turns and walks towards the village.
“We need to secure shelter, and get you some food.”
“I’m not hungry-” Aiden’s stomach grumbles mid sentence.
“Hah! We’ve been on the road for four days now, you need food.”
“Four days?! I’ve been asleep for four days?” Aiden was astonished.
“Yes. For now, let’s get you some food, and perhaps your mind will try to remember more.”
Allen and Aiden walk into the tavern and secure a room from the innkeeper.
“That’ll be 15 gold pieces.”
“We’ll also need some food. What’s the special this evening?”
“My wife Deb is fixing some nice Blacktail we caught just up river. Would that do?”
Allen nods, “That’ll be fine.”
“Well, we’ll send it up as soon as it’s ready.”
They walk up the stairs and enter a nice little room with beds cushioned with hay, and blankets laid out for them. Allen takes off his equipment and sets it on a table in the middle of the room and crashes on one of the beds.
“Ah, sorry…you can call me Allen.”
“What is it?”
“Where is Crueg, and why are we here?”
“Well, when your memory comes back you’ll know all the details. But right now, Amar is probably crawling with Armsmen looking for you and I suppose myself now.”
After a short while, the door knocks. In an instant Allen is beside the door as it takes Aiden several seconds to realize that Allen had even moved. Aiden began to speak but was quickly hushed by Allen.
“Who is it?”
“Enter…” Allen grasps Lotus as the door opens.
The innkeeper enters with a tray carrying a sizzling plate of fried Blacktail fish. Aiden’s eyes widened as he hopped off the bed to meet the tray at the center table.
“That looks amazing, sir!” Aiden was just too hungry to hide any excitement.
“Thank you. It is my wife’s specialty. Blacktails come through our canals everyday.”
“Thank you, old man. That’ll be all.”
“Aye” The old man exits the room.
Aiden grabs a spoon and scoops up a large portion of the fish. As the spoon is about to enter Aiden’s mouth, Allen grabs his arm.
“Hold on.” Allen took the spoon.
“But I’m hungry!”
“Do you even know how to eat Blacktail?”
“I know how to eat fish!” Aiden crossed his arms.
“Then you were aware that you were about to eat the black tail, which is venomous?”
Aiden looked away and sighed. Allen gave off a small laugh and took a knife and cut off the black tail. He hands Aiden a boned, portion of the fish and let him eat his fill. After eating the whole fish, Aiden sat beside his bed rubbing his tummy.
“Satisfied?” Allen smirked.
“Definitely, Blacktail has to be my favorite!” Aiden was so pleased.
After several minutes, Allen began sharpening Lotus with a rugged piece of silver lining. Aiden looked around and found Falkstream. He took it in his hands and looked over at Allen.
“Um, do you have another one of those?”
“Silverscreen?” Allen asked, “Why don’t you ask your sword?”
Aiden looked around the sword and could not find any hidden compartments or indication there was any kind of cloth on the sword.
“Ask your sword…Aiden.” Allen repeated.
Aiden looked down and held the sword in his hand, and looked it up and down.
“Um…Falkstream?” the sword began to glow.
“I knew it…” Allen was pleased.
“Knew what?” Aiden was confused.
“The sword has accepted you.”
“I’m just a kid!” Aiden interjected.
“You’ve lost your memory but your body remembers your training.”
Aiden stared into Allen’s eyes. Allen’s eyes began to sparkle as he thrusted towards Aiden slashing at his neck. In an instant, Aiden’s eyes sparkled as well and in a burst of energy, a white aura surrounded him as he stopped Allen’s blade from cutting his neck.
“There it is, Aiden!”
“What the-” Aiden couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“Your body definitely remembers its training.”
“What was that just now?”
“Your aspect.” Allen sheathed his sword, “Remember, I told you…your heightened agility allows for increased speed and reflexes. It just helped you stop my sword.”
“But you were just testing me right? You weren’t really going to-”
Allen turned around and laid on his bed.
“I can’t believe it! You really were!”
“Don’t think too much of it Aiden. If I hadn’t had the resolve, it wouldn’t have awakened.”
“You just tried to kill me!”
“Hah!” Allen turned to lay on his side facing away from Aiden laughing.
“Don’t you turn from me!” Aiden screamed across the room.
“Goodnight, Mine Prince.”
Aiden crossed his arms and gave Allen a snarky look. He grasped Falkstream again and felt the blade with his fingers. Aiden finally smiled.
The big boots imprinted into the crumbled earth as he gradually walks towards the gate. He signals for the guards to open the gates. He walks through the gate and kneels down. He takes a sample of the dirt and sniffs it as he takes a glance off into the horizon.
“Balin, mine commander, what is it?”
Balin sniffed the dirt once more and stood up clenching his fist and dropping the dirt on the ground.
“Our prey has wandered into foreign territory.”
“Should we pursue?”
“This situation has gotten fragile.”
Balin looks up into the sky as he sees an eagle soaring passed them. Balin’s eyes squint as he grins.
“Who would like a chance at glory and honor?”
A man steps forward, “I would!”
“Splendid, Balefor. This is a special assignment I am handing you. However you must renounce any connection you have to the kingdom.”
“Whatever must be done mine commander.”
Balin grasps Balefor’s tabard and rips the crest on it.
“Take Dresden with you. Discard any crests and identifiable markings on your person and track our prey into Crueg territory and send word back to the Castle. Should you be caught and exposed, you are on your own. Be successful and immortality awaits you.”
Balefor kneels down, “Mine commander.”
The two men walk off into the distance as Balin and the rest of the men mount their horses.
“We ride for Castle Amar.”
Everyone acknowledges, “Sir!”
It had been two weeks since the events of that day. Within the walls of Castle Amar friction and dissonance grew amongst the kingdom guard. Elana was pacing back and forth until finally she sat at her vanity mirror and started brushing her hair.
“Damn it, Allen where are you?”
In the Bladed Halls, the guards grew restless as they were all in assembly with Arbiter Humber. The guards began to grumble awaiting the king’s arrival. Finally, Garroltis entered the Bladed Halls and sat at the high throne.
“Arbiter Humber, you may begin the proceedings.”
Arbiter Humber stood up from his chair as the Blade Guards gathered in front of him.
“Blade Guards, you are hereby assembled before the King to heed his new decree.”
Garroltis waved Humber to commence.
“The King has declared Allen Swiftstrike, enemy of the state. As of now, anyone in contact with him will be expelled from service and sentenced to End.”
Murmurs and grumbles arose immediately as the Blade Guards could not believe what they just heard.
“What was his crime?!”
“Allen Swiftstrike has been found to be in cahoots with Sentius Blackthorn in the assassination of our Prince Aiden. He has fled from these walls taking the lives of three Armsmen in the process.”
“That’s ludicrous! He would never do such a thing!” one man yelled.
“Swiftstrike is an honorable man!” another man exclaimed.
Humber, “Do you both wish to vouch for Swiftstrike and accept Ending?”
The grumbling grew weaker but the guards were still talking amongst each other.
“The King would now like to appoint a new Blade Master and Commander of the Blade Guards. Does anyone wish to step forward and challenge the title?”
“This is insane! You expect us to believe Allen Swiftstrike has committed treason against the court?! What of his defense?!”
Arbiter Humber grinned, “Grenn Steelburn, vice commander of the Blade Guards, his defense was forfeit the moment he fled the castle walls. Do you wish to challenge the title?”
Grenn grasped his sword reluctantly and gave Humber a cold stare. A man grabbed Grenn’s shoulder and lightly brushed him aside. He walked forward towards Arbiter Humber and stared him in the eyes.
“No one could ever replace our Commander.”
Arbiter Humber interjected, “Treyes Falkrin…you dare raise a sword against the court?”
Treyes grasped his sword and looked down, “Not the court…the King!”
With blinding speed, Treyes bursted forward towards Garroltis with immense speed and slashed at Garroltis. Garroltis stood up and held Baragus up to stop the sword and grabbed Treyes by the neck.
“Your mastery of agility is pathetic. I sentence you to End.”
In a swift painless manner, Garroltis clenched his fingers and broke Treyes’ neck. He dropped him onto the ground and stared down the rest of the blades.
“Does anyone else wish me to take their lives?”
The Blades all backed down reluctantly as Grenn grinded his teeth in anger. He looked back at his fellow soldiers, “I will challenge the title…”
“Grenn!” the men grumbled.
Grenn glared at them all and spoke softly, “Please…”
The men understood what Grenn was trying to do. They all digressed as Grenn walked foward in front of Arbiter Humber.
“I, Grenn Steelburn, Vice Commander of the Blade Guard wish to challenge the title of Blade Master.”
Arbiter Humber put his hand on Grenn’s head and proceeded.
“Grenn Steelburn, in three days time you will be put to the test by your fellow Blades as well as Mages, and Armsmen. Should you succeed in the challenge, you shall be afforded the title and appointed new commander of the Blade Guards. This assembly has been adjourned.”
Grenn stared down at his feet as Arbiter Humber and Garroltis exited the Bladed Halls. The grumbling ceased as a few men put their hands on Grenn’s shoulders.
“Look, if I don’t challenge the title, Garroltis will just appoint a new commander, and then we’ll all be in danger…”
“We understand, sir.”
“Viktor, among all the Blades your step is the quietest. I need you to investigate this matter, stealthily.”
Back in Elana’s chambers she shuffles through her possessions as she hears a peck in the window.
She opened the window and let the eagle in. The eagle began to vomit as the crumbled up parchment dropped onto the desk.
“Ew, I hate that part…”
Elana unfolded the parchment paper and began reading Allen’s writing.
“Elana, I found Aiden, he is alive. Taking him somewhere safe. Garroltis sent those Armsmen to murder him. I’m most probably a fugitive. Be safe until I return.”
Elana blazed the parchment into ash and began thinking heavily. She could not fathom what she just read, not to mention accept the gravity of the information she now knew. She let Phalanx out of the window. Phalanx flew off up into the sky. As it reached the highest tower of Castle Amar, hands reached out and grasped the neck of the bird.
“What do we have here?”
Balin pulled the bird in and broke its neck. He dropped Phalanx onto the ground.
“Looks like I got back in time.”
“This was Swiftstrike’s bird, it was trying to reach someone. We must be cautious about who knows of our plans.”
Balin looked down from the perch and saw one window open, “Flaregraze…?”
Balin descended from the tower and made his way to Elana’s chambers. As she finished getting dressed she seemed as though she was packing a few things. There was a knock on the door, as she grew a little suspicious. She opened it slowly as Balin forced it wide open and walked in.
“Haven’t you heard of knocking? This is a lady’s room.”
“Excuse me?” Elana was infuriated.
“So what did the parchment read?”
“Don’t play dumb mage, I caught Phalanx exiting your window.”
“Phalanx likes to visit me sometimes.”
Balin smirked looking out the window, “I’m afraid it just lost its life just to visit you then.”
“What did you-?!” the veins in Elana’s neck began to throb.
“Now, now…it’s just a bird.”
“That was Allen’s- …” Elana paused for a moment, “Swiftstrike’s bird!”
“So what did it say?” Balin approached Elana and cornered her at the opposite end of the room.
“I swear, I do not know of what you speak. I must go”
Elana then teleported away from Balin and appeared by the doorway, but in an instant Balin came from behind and grabbed her neck and held her against the wall. Elana was astonished and bewildered.
“It’s amazing isn’t it?” Balin grasped at her neck even tighter, “…mixed with Strength, it’s very deadly.”
“How did you-?!”
“What did it say?” Balin asked calmly.
“I told you, nothing!”
Balin grasped her neck even tighter, within an inch of crushing it. He took his other hand and slipped it beneath her robe and grasped at her breast.
“Did Swiftstrike touch you like this?”
Elana smacked Balin’s hand away from her body as a burst of fire exploded in front of her sending Balin crashing into the wall on the opposite end of the room.
“How dare you lay your hands on me!” Elana summoned a staff from thin air and spun it into her hands as she switched into a fighting stance.
Balin removed himself from the wall and brushed himself off, “I deserved that.”
“You’ll deserve a lot more if you ever touch me again!” Elana summoned an icicle with flames circling inside of it.
“Don’t get too comfortable Flaregraze. I’ll be watching you.”
Balin exited the room quietly as Elana fell to the floor gasping for air as the staff disappeared. She was thoroughly convinced the information she had been entrusted with was the truth. Balin had almost crushed her neck, as she grabbed it in pain.
Allen awoke from his sleep grasping his chest. In his panic, he woke up Aiden who was in the bed beside him.
“Phalanx!” Allen grinded his teeth.
“What happened, Allen?”
“I can no longer feel Phalanx’s presence.”
“Do you think…?”
“It’s possible…but I just can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry, Allen.”
“It’s alright…” Allen got up and began gathering his things, “it’s no longer safe here. We must hurry.”
“Where are we going?”
“To Lion’el Castle, to meet with the King of Crueg.”
“If we ever hope to return home to Amar, we’ll need his help.”
Allen and Aiden walked out of the inn at just about dawn and packed the horse. They began to ride into the horizon. A few hours later Balefor and Dresden entered the village. Balefor knelt down and smelled the dirt on the ground.
“They were just here.” Balefor explained, “I’d say they are ahead of us by a day at best.”
Dresden looked off into the horizon, “Then we’ll just have to ride faster.”
Balefor took out a parchment and summoned a hawk. The hawk took the parchment and flew off into the distance towards Amar. Balefor and Dresden mounted their horses and began riding.
“We can’t let them get to Lion’el…”