Shortly before dusk on a cold spring day, a lone small, shabby, brown horse plodded down a rough rock strewn cart path, an older man in a long gray cloak studied the land, rubbing a hand threw his dusty grey flecked beard. A walking staff was tucked under his bags on the saddle behind him, poking out to either side. Birch tree’s on each side of the road stretched eerily over him, constructing a natural corridor, sheltering the small foliage in the forest that spread to either side of the road.
He had a look about him of long travels, hard earned miles on a tired horse. He hummed softly to himself with an air of calm, for he knew he was close, his journey was coming to an end, for better or worse.
The path forked and the man took the left which was slightly more overgrown with weeds and grass. His gray cloak softly parted in the weak breeze, revealing a brown hooded robe beneath. He continued down his chosen path, proceeding slowly, until he reached a small clearing on the left which contained a mess of rubble, old statues and worn pillars of stone bearing old markings that had amazingly withstood the test of time. Some grasses and a few tree’s had managed to eek out a life in the rubble, but for the most part it was just a mass of stones. He dismounted his breath frosting in the cold air.
Turning to the conglomeration of ancient stones, he stepped from the road to the fresh green grass, making his way threw the ten feet or so of sparse foliage and tree’s, before stopping at the first ancient toppled pillar.
To think of what these stones once have seen. He thought meaningfully. What history have you witnessed? What secrets do you know? He took a deep breath, “Well maybe we should find out what you’re hiding, eh?”
His leather thongs slapped cold and hard on a downed lintel as he climbed over it, he jumped and hopped over square block stones and climbed over monoliths. He passed a lone birch tree where a squirrel was watching him warily from it’s branches, the only inhabitant of a long forgotten place. He traveled maybe fifteen feet to near the middle of the rubble, until he came to a standing stone, as tall as a man, that looked as if it might have once been the upright of a doorway, chipped and pocked scrollwork along with fanciful animals in faded gold paint, were carved up the front of it, as sprawling thorny vines twirled around the whimsical carvings with leaves and faded flowers. Flecks of a light green paint, worn with time, still adorned it’s surface. He could only imagine what it must have looked like in it’s prime, surely a beautiful sight to behold once, but the splendor it once contained had long since faded.
He took out a piece of creased wrinkled paper studying it carefully before nodding his head. Tossing the paper to the ground, he swept back his hood revealing a close cropped head of light gray hair, his hand went underneath his cloak as he dropped to his knees. Out from under the cloak his hand came, clutching a small broad bladed knife with a simple leather handle, which he hastily plunged into the ground, his breath coming harsh, and quick. A bird chattered at him from a nearby tree branch, but he didn’t notice.
Slowly, he began turning up dark chunks of earth, remembering that he had been told that it shouldn’t be buried deep, and indeed after a few minutes furiously churning up the earth his knife hit something solid, something metal. Soil flew into the air as he grabbed at the dirt with his hands, throwing it behind him, like a mole. His hands slowly found the outline of a box, he laughed smugly, nodding his head. He put his hands in the shallow hole and slowly lifted it out, brushed the mud and dirt from off the top, and out of the small latch.
He studied the cold nondescript box, it’s height topped at maybe three inches off the ground, it’s surface had not a mark, except for a few spots of dirt and mud. He had surmised it would be gilded and embossed with jewels, and gold, not just a plain metal box. He shrugged his shoulders letting visions of grandeur fade from his mind, however, it left him somewhat disappointed as he had envisioned something more substantial, but nevertheless, he had finally found what he needed. He set the plain metal box before him, it’s ancient surface finally seeing the light of day once more. He licked his lips nervously, his fingertips hovering an inch above the box. What the Hard am I waiting for? This needs to be done, for the people…..for the people…….
He hooked his pointer finger around the latch and pulled up, it popped surprisingly easy, and he noticed for the first time that the strange box had almost no rust on it, it’s grey metallic surfaces were remarkably spotless.
He flung the top half of the box open watching as it silently floated ajar on it’s hinges and thudded to the ground with a softened thunk. His mouth dropped open a bit, he never thought it would be so well preserved. After all it was at least a thousand years old, if not more. The two foot long, foot wide book looked perfect. The dark blue cover shined as bright as if it had been finished yesterday, and it had naught a scratch, or mark except for the embossed emblem in black of a moon, flanked by two stars, with a small blood-lark bird flying over the moons pocked surface. A blood lark? Trian had told him the bird was a symbol of the ancients, even though their gods and civilizations had died long ago the bird still survived. It was a rare bird which lived in the northern forests, it was much like a Blue jay, but it’s feather’s were stained red. Bards and old men who told stories to children in their villages, and hamlets, said it’s feathers were coated with the blood of the ancients, as a reminder to all of their legacy. Of course that was only a fairytale, but seeing this emblem he imagined it might have more substance than just a tale that people told to scare children.
His hands shook with excitement as he stared down at the holy treasure he held in his hands. “The book, I have it in my hands.” He began laughing wildly for a moment almost scaring himself back to reality. A quick look around him assured that no one was near. Trian had told him that the book of Adus had great power, so he should be careful, of course he had no intention of invoking the books spells until he fully understood them. The book of Adus had faded from the history of the land. Trian was the only person he had ever known to even speak it’s name or know of it’s secrets. He had told him that when the book was found, a new era would engulf the land of Arsinos. The old god was supposed to come back, and the one who had found the book would be elevated to a position of great power. Trian had been opposed to the hundreds of gods that had a strangle hold on the people and governments today. He had said that one day they would lead this land into chaos, in order to save Arsinos this is what had to be done. He had been taught that the current gods were corrupt, and the only solution was the book. He had never questioned Trian for he could see his vision, when there would be no famine and no war, a golden age only possible through this book. Yet that would only happen if the old god was restored, and that’s why he was here. A quick grin blossomed across his older, birdlike features. “Now it can begin, but first to secure the staging ground. Work has to be done. Things will change.” His grin vanished under a mask of determination.
He placed the book back in it’s case, sheathing his knife under his cloak, closing the lid he slowly stood with the book case in his hands. He looked down towards the road, listening, for he didn’t need anybody seeing him here, or with the box. Small chance anybody could guess what this case contained, or the contents magnitude, but he had no chances to take. He made his way back over to his horse, the birds in the surrounding forest had gone silent which made him wary, but he ignored it, he hefted the box up onto Mordelai, who stood grazing by the road. Tucking the box under his saddlebags as best he could, he put a foot in the stirrup, and hopped up onto the steed which had carried him so far.
“I bet your about ready for a rest Mordelai? I know old friend, so am I….so am I.” He turned his horse onto the path heading back the way he had came. The sun had dipped almost below the horizon, and its light shown through the vegetation on the ridge before him. A small smile spread his lips, Like a phoenix rising, he thought excitedly.
The grasses and trees were just beginning to show the first signs of spring, it reminded him of a fresh start, a fresh start for all in Arsinos. Not only was spring coming to this land, but the book of Adus would not be far behind. I need to gain some sort of following, it wouldn‘t be a good thing to welcome my god back to an empty house. He suddenly realized he thought of little else but his plan. He thought Trian would be pleased with what he had done so far, he only wished he would have lived to see it. Yet he also wondered if he was some kind of mad, if his mentor had infected him with his absolute devotion to finding the book before he died. But he knew it made little difference, he was too close now to stop.
Someday the world will bow to me, and my new god. They will hoist me upon their shoulders for saving them, for saving our great land from sure and utter destruction. He pondered with steely resolve. Someday the world will cower before us.
As the mans horse slowly made its way back toward the sizable town of Tamirra, the click of his hooves faded from the small clearing with the ancient rubble. As the day began hastening toward darkness, the weak breeze became a bit more brazen and the air began to smell of rain. Things were about to happen in the land of Arsinos.
Jalen Brinkloviar leaned back in his favorite wicker chair he had bought at a flea market for a mere five ginno’s. The hawker had offered him at least fifteen silver ginni’s, but he had managed to work him down to five copper ginno’s. No easy task, but then Jalen had become a master in the art of haggling throughout his years. He always told his sons that haggling was not a flaw but an attribute. After all, if you were willing to pay anything for what you wanted, you would never know how much you could have taken it for. Not that his sons listened much to what he said. It’s not that they ignored him, Jalen just figured they didn’t retain information that well. Then again, what young people did. It was a wonder they remembered to breath.
He looked out the window at the cloudy day that had been produced all week, even for being midday it was still rather cold, but not so cold as to start a fire yet, he would have to wait till nightfall at least. The clouds dappled shadows across the dirt alleyway, and made odd shapes on the hodgepodge of shops on the other side of the way.
While scanning the alley he noticed Barim, an average sized young man with black hair down to his shoulders, and at least 5 piercings in his ears and one in his lip. His coverall’s were stained with dark splotches, which could only be horse droppings, since he was a stable boy. He was standing outside the back of the inn across the alleyway, smoking one of the very thin cigars he always rolled himself, smoke sticks he called them. He never did his share of the work as he was always getting caught slacking, and normally Jalen wouldn’t care, but since he owned the inn, The Proud Stallion, he had a say in what his employee’s should be doing. Even if Barim was just a stable boy, Jalen doubted that the stables were spotless and all of his clients horses had been properly rubbed down and given just treatment.
Fifty five years old, never thought I’d live this long, let alone have anything to show for it if I did. His thoughts turned inward, he sat for a few moments staring blankly at the alleyway, not really noticing anything, not thinking about nor caring for the world around him. His mind wandered it’s endless depths as the years flashed by him.
If only Birgit were here to see what I’ve accomplished with the inn. Aye, she would be proud. I’m sure she never thought I would be an old innkeeper, of course neither did I. At least I still have my boys, I don’t know what I’d do without them. Yes, I wonder where my two young ones are?
Jalen’s eyes strayed back to the alley, where Barim was now sitting on a bucket. He had left Edwenin in charge today so he could take a break from the inn. Of course when you live next door it’s impossible to keep your mind off your business.
“I suppose if I don’t get over there, that boy will never get to work.” Grumbling about lazy young men, and his age, he got up from his favorite chair, and headed out through the back door of the house into the alleyway.
As soon as Barim saw him, he jumped up from his stool, and quickly walked down the left side of the building and around the corner, shooting one look back at Jalen, he was hurrying, obviously to go to the stables. Jalen didn’t understand how Barim thought he could sit outside frittering away his time when his employer lived right next door.
He shook his head, putting Barim out of his thoughts, as he stepped up to the back porch out of the dirt alleyway and looked down the way. Stout little Dien Cedar, who owned the chandler shop two buildings down was hauling some sort of candle making supplies from a wagon parked in the alley, into his shop. His beautiful young raven haired daughter of twenty years, Marina was standing beside him with a piece of paper doing accounting or some such. He smiled for a moment, he thought Marina would make a nice wife for his son Braiden, she obviously liked him, but he had never shown much interest in a girl for more than a month or two. Three sons, and a thousand problems. He chuckled softly to himself as he entered the back door.
He came into the back of the kitchen, and his ears were suddenly filled with the clamor of an inn filling as it came closer to dusk, and a staff working hard to satisfy them. His nose caught the scent of bread and some sort of stew which made his stomach growl, as he’d had nothing to fill his belly the entire day. Looking around he soon spotted Edwenin the heavy set woman berating poor little Milla, waving a large wooden stirring spoon about her head.
“Hurry you clumsy, moon eyed cow, I want that roast on a plate and to that man in under five minutes! Don’t roll those pretty little eyes at me you wretched…..” she cut short as Jalen approached, his tall frame catching her eye.
“Cut her a break Edwenin, you know as well as I she’s trying her best.” He shot the wide woman a smart smile as he came strolling over, little Milla offered up a smile of her own for Jalen. Her blonde head bobbing in agreement as her blue eyes blinked like a small bird. After a moment of silence, she quickly scurried off with two slices of roast stopping quickly to sprinkle some Brinswell on the roast, a zesty peppery spice, and pick up a bowl of pea soup.
“Edwenin,” he began after Milla had scurried off, “ I saw Barim sitting out back, doing nothing once more.” He frowned ominously at her, and continued, “If I see that one more time I’m going to fire the both of you, since it’s your fault as much as his.”
Her green eyes widened a bit, “Oh Jalen, you couldn’t fire me, what would you do for help.” She let out a hoarse laugh, tapping her wooden spoon on the counter. When she saw that his frown continued to grow however she became serious.
“I will warn him Jalen,” her voice lowered and a soothing note entered it, “don’t worry, I’m sure his work is done. No one has checked in since noon, and two rooms checked out.” Grabbing an oven shovel, she took a loaf of bread out of one of the three ovens lining the back wall, and shoved it off on a metal pan that lay on the wooden counter which stretched the length of the room to the common room door.
“Plus, you need to stop worrying so much.” Turning to him she put a hand on his shoulder. “After all that’s why you put me in charge for half the week, you’ll drive yourself mad over this, and you need a REAL day off Jalen.”
Jalen nodded because he knew she told truth. “You’re right, as usual, I think I’ll go out front and have an ale.” He shuffled toward the doorway, picking up a piece of cheese as he passed a block of it.
“And try to smile once in a while!” He heard Edwenin call out after him. He smiled broadly Edwenin could always raise him up a little bit no matter what was happening to him.
He walked in to the common room of the inn. The inn had an average sized bar directly to his left and about nine tables spread around a large lofty room. A fire place burned in the left far corner and Kadlin the bouncer sat by the door straight in front of Jalen. There were three lone men at the bar, and two full tables of four. He noticed one shady man sitting at a corner table, a broad brimmed hat covered his head, and a dark cloak sat over the chair beside him. He slowly picked at his roasted chicken, it looked like he was thinking of something other than food.
Jalen sat on a bar stool at the left most edge of the bar, two seats down was a blonde man who stared into his ale as if he’d had a long day, or just a bad one.
“Well, how is my favorite old man today?” a soft voice said.
Jalen looked up to see a rather tall brown haired girl before him, her dark blue eyes were outlined with liner, as a great white beautiful smile broke over her face. She rubbed her hands on her black apron.
Jalen smiled back, as he popped the cheese into his mouth, which had a tart tangy taste to it. “Hello Lanna, you are too kind to me, but it’s just another day. However I would like a nice cold ale if you would be able to help me?”
She broke another smile and a wink. “I think I might be able to help you old man.” She turned and grabbed a mug, but a piece of conversation floated over to Jalen just then and he gave an ear to listen.
“…….said he wanted us…to join his religious movement…”A rough sounding man laughed out. “Said he would reward us greatly for believing in his new God,….” more laughter “…..can’t quite remember what his name was, something about priest Thoma Crisla or Cristor, or something like that. Man was out of his mind, can’t believe he would dare to speak such blasphemy against our gods, the great Triarii, blessed be his name, should have smote him down as he spoke those words. Speaking of his god Solin as if we should fear him, as if….” He lost the rest in the clamor of the inn.
Jalen had heard of this Thoma, a priest who was spreading his religion around Tamirra. He was supposed to have been in town for a couple days, yet Jalen had yet to see him. He was surprised that the government or the guild of the gods had not found the idiot and hung him by now for heresy. Returning his eyes to the bar, he found his ale before him, Lanna was gone, probably on her break.
After setting his ale down from a nice long pull, he felt a presence next to him and turned to find his son Braiden sitting next to him at the bar. His dirty gold hair was long and flowing to his shoulders, his green eyes meeting his fathers. He was dressed in a red tunic, brown trousers and a black cloak. He unpinned his cloak draping it over his chair and sat down.
“Hello father, you look almost surprised to see me huh?” His thin lips turned up in a sly smile.
“No my son, just grateful I suppose.” The smile he gave in return was much more generous, heavily laden with the love he felt for his son. “Where have you been at today.” He said taking another drink of his ale.
“Oh I’ve been fooling around with Hadel today. Doing nothing much really, I think I need to find something else to do.” His son smiled but it was weak for he knew what was coming.
“Hadel Adruana?” Jalen asked with a strict tone in his voice. “You know he’s trouble Braiden, every thought that enters that boys head is foolish. I would stay away from him if I were you, it will only land you in a pit of snakes.” He shook his head, but he knew he couldn’t tell Braiden what to do, he was almost twenty one now, in another month.
“He’s not near as bad as you think father. If you knew him you’d think different.” Braiden looked toward the bar as Lanna came back in and she gave him a shy wave and a smile.
Jalen had noticed Braiden had a way with women, when he wasn’t a drunken fool, but he never seemed to be looking for the long run, and always had a new fling once he got bored. Sad truth, but so were the ways of foolish young men.
Jalen stood from his seat and finished his ale, he would let his son and Lanna talk without worry of the old man sitting about, listening to the love birds. And plus he had promised Edwenin he would stay away from the inn and it’s business for a couple day‘s. No matter how hard it was for him He had promised more than that, but he didn’t think he could do it. .
“Braiden, if you see your brother tell him I want to talk to him, I haven’t seen him for at least a week and I’m starting to wonder. You haven’t seen him have you?” Jalen drew his brows, daring Braiden to lie, as he had sometimes been prone to do, to protect his little brother.
“No, I haven’t seen him, but he might be out in the forest, by the stream, he likes to go there and read books and what not.” Braidens attention wandered very quickly back to Lanna and they began chatting each other up.
Jalen passed on the option to tell Lanna to get back to work, since she was one of his better employee’s. She had been a real help at the bar. It seemed that all of the previous barkeeps he had hired couldn’t do the job as well as she. He had been doing the bartending for months before Lanna had wandered in looking for employment. After all she had been working here for about two and a half years, and only recently been given the job of bartender. She seemed to enjoy that a lot more than being a serving girl, so Jalen figured slacking was on the bottom of her list unless she wanted to lose her lofty new position. He made his way out back the way he had come, sparing a wave goodbye for Edwenin as she banged around in her kitchen castle ordering different people here and there. He exited out the back door and onto the back steps, relieved that he didn’t find Barim outside smoking. He’s probably in the stable smoking now. He thought wryly, now he’ll probably burn down my entire business.
Jalen pulled his arms around him as he noticed the biting cold that was setting in. “Bout time to get back and start a fire, lest I freeze my flesh solid tonight.” He crossed the alley way the cold grey dirt dusting under his footsteps. Two blue jays chirped at each other from the only tree in his back yard, an apple tree, that would be bearing fruit in a couple months. He came in through the back, heading over to the fireplace and set about building a fire.
Four hours later he was eating a light dinner of various vegetables a few slabs of cheese and bread, when his youngest son walked in.
“Ahhhh…..Grevail, I’ve been wanting to see you.” Jalen stated warmly. He was wearing a green coat and brown trousers, a black belt slanted across his waste, and obviously he forgot his cloak somewhere which Jalen frowned upon. Clothes weren’t cheap, something Grevail would soon find out.
“I know father, Braiden told me as soon as he saw me.” Grevail gave a warm smile, his brown eyes twinkling under his brown head of hair, he knew his fathers distrust of his brother sometimes.
Jalen noticed how much Grevail looked like his mother, from his dark brown hair to his twinkling brown eyes, his slightly hooked nose and crimson cheeks. He reminded him of her greatly.
“I’ve been reading in the forest, studying with Taurana, for the past few days, I’m sorry I haven’t had the time to see you or tell you where I’ve been.” He walked in further and took a seat across from his father in an old rickety wooden chair by the fire. “What is it you wanted to talk about?” He asked.
“Well…” Jalen began, the light from the fire danced shadows across his fatherly face. “…you know your apprenticeship for Omar the accountant ends in six months,” He leaned forward in his chair, intent on what his son might say. “I was just wanting to know if you had any plans for the future Grevail. I don’t want you to forget that this school matter is just a respite from the real world. Hard work is coming after this you know. Do you have a plan?” Jalen leaned farther back into his chair, waiting for his sons response.
“Not really….” he started slowly. “I thought I might head to Calihira, get into the horse trade down there. Taurana said she knew some merchants down there through her father, and that is where she might be heading. After being an accountant for a horse trader I’d know some names and have some support and some money.” Grevails hands gripped the arms of his chair. His brows pulled down as far as they could. “ Maybe I’d get into the business, I’m just really not sure on anything right now. It’s all very confusing, this life business. Adellus has his merchant ships, which I always admired him for, since finding your niche in life can be hard.” Grevail stirred his feet, looking down at the ground he sighed.
Jalen smiled briefly before saying “Yes, Grevail, life is a confusing funny game, but you have to play to win. Your winning hand will come soon enough son.” Glancing out the window he noticed it was now night, and the inn’s lights cast long streaks across the alleyway, illuminating a brown and black striped cat sauntering about the trash cans. “Urucan though? You know they don’t care for us Irican’s much. Ever since the civil war.” Jalen’s father had fought in the civil war one hundred years back. The Irican rebels split from the nation of Urucan, forging their own nation in the fires of war. The fighting eventually simmered to a stop, and peace was declared, but there were still some old grudges to be held between the two nations. Nobody was really even sure how the war began, but for whatever reason it had. Jalen was thankful it had. He had never had much love for the Urucan, but maybe that was due to his lack of knowledge about them.
Grevail lifted his head slowly and met his fathers eyes, “I know father, but I really don’t know what else I might do. It seems confusion is my profession these days.” His head drooping downwards once more.
Jalen had to laugh. “You will find your way lad, don’t you worry. Take me for instance…I never thought I would be an innkeeper, or a father for that matter.” Jalen shifted in his chair, and it creaked and groaned with his weight. “You will find your way. Adellus had the same problem you know. So don’t think your out of place boy. He never grew thinking he was going to be a merchant on the high seas! No, no…your brother had wanted to be a circus performer.” Jalen chuckled. “Yes, he had wanted to be a trapeze artist. Ever since I took him to the first Darunens feast he had been to. He happened upon the merchants job by chance Grevail. It was a funny thing really,” Jalen motioned to the doorway. “He just came running in one day, said he was going to join a merchant vessel, and from there he got his own boat, his own crew, filled his own hold, and he was off.”
Grevail nodded slowly, running his hand through his brown hair. “I remember when he left. He did have a light in his eyes. Like he was headed off on a great adventure. I can still remember how I wanted to go off with him. To explore and have adventures.” Grevail laughed, slapping his thigh. “An accountants life is far from a life of adventure.” He quieted then, looking thoughtful. “I suppose I will find my own adventures in time. Maybe I could be an accountant for a king eh?” He laughed again. “Though I do not think I will be the clerk for a kings court. It would be something though.”
“I’m sure you could do it. Even if it’s not a king, maybe a Lord Noble?” Jalen threw up his hands. “There are unlimited possibilities for you. After all, some people do not even know their numbers, it makes me proud to have a son in such a profession, even if he isn’t a kings clerk.”
“Well that’s good to hear dad.” He paused, looking around the dark house, lit only by the fire and a few candles. “Is Braiden still out? I’d have figured he would be home by now.”
“Now that boy is the one I’m worried about Grevail. I wonder if he’ll ever pull his head out of the dirt.” Jalen grimaced, he wasn’t particularly happy about that situation.
“He will come around dad, I think he is just having trouble. I always thought it might have to do something with mother dying. Adellus was already out of the house, I was still younger, and he was hurt the most by it I think.” A silence fell over them both at the mention of Grevails mother. They both let the silence stretch, the only sound the crackling of the fire, until Grevail changed the subject. “Have you heard about that priest cavorting around town? Something about a new religion? I talked to Abert Cedar down the street, he said he saw him yesterday. He told me he saw him riding down the street with maybe ten others walking behind him.” Grevail sounded angry, and disgusted at the same time. “Can you believe someone would have the gall to walk around our town saying things like that?” He looked at his father in disbelief. “I wonder how much longer Lord Noble Daryn will let him do that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be worried about Lord Noble Daryn, as much as I would be the Guild, I doubt they have much love for anybody who doesn’t believe in the Gods, least of all people who go around spouting things like I hear that priest does.” Jalen had been hearing a lot of that man lately. Seemed he was getting a lot of attention, and none of it was good.
“I guess someone will deal with him sooner or later.” Grevail looked at the fire, deep in thought.
“Well, you had better get to bed son. Omar doesn’t wait for the late. I don’t think it would be good to get on his bad-side so close to the end of your apprenticeship.” Jalen leaned back in his chair, taking a deep breath. “You know how Omar loves punctuality.”
“Yes, unfortunately he is quite a stickler for the rules. I’m getting tired anyway though.” Grevail rose to leave, stretching up out of his seat with a yawn. “Will you throw me that blanket son? I think I will sleep right here tonight.” Jalen caught the blanket as Grevail threw it to him, and spread it over his body, shifting into a more comfortable position. “Thank you, now get a nice rest Grevail, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Grevail nodded heading for the stairs. “Alright Dad, have a goodnight.”
“Grab some bread on the counter too, before it goes bad!” Jalen yelled after his boy.
Seconds later he heard Grevails footsteps heading upstairs to his room. He felt better after talking to Grevail, it seemed all of his sons were finally leaving. At least they’ve all made it to adulthood alive. At least they’re all alive… Apparently Braiden was still out wandering the night. Jalen wondered if he would ever be up to the job of managing the inn after he was gone. Adellus had his merchant business or else he would be first in line. Probably would have been better since he had a head for business. Braiden however seemed too busy with women and wine to give any thought to his future, that would pass hopefully, soon enough he will come around. He thought about his life and his sons as he slowly drifted to sleep by the fire, the stars twinkling in the endless, cloudless sky outside.
Thoma Crista felt good today. His years of hard work were finally paying off. He had already gained a small following but he knew it wasn’t enough yet, he needed a little more. Tamirra was a town of just under eight thousand, a large enough town to suit his needs. He knew that he could acquire enough of a following out of this town. Trian had told Thoma that Tamirra was of great importance to the book and to Solin. Why or how he did not say. All Trian had said, was that the town needed to be taken for the return, and that the book would eventually reveal why. He had only managed to flip through the book as of yet, and glean enough information to get people to follow him. It was rather large after all, and it would probably take him a couple day’s to read it all in one sitting.
He had begun to formulate a plan of the utmost secrecy, he hadn’t told any in his hundred or so followers he had managed to convince about Solin. Solin, he had learned from reading the book, was the name of the god he had yet to bring back. His name had been apparently lost throughout time, but Thoma wondered why Trian had never told him the name of the mighty god he was supposed to help return to power. He must have had his reasons, but Thoma often wondered. He had shown his followers the book though, which may have been a mistake, but he had no other choice, he couldn’t imagine anyone would believe him otherwise. He had been targeting people who looked down on their luck, buying them some food and other pleasures which they had lacked. Thus he ensured their loyalty to him, even if they didn’t believe in Solin. Eventually he would have to convince some individuals in the loftier positions of noble society, for that was where the real power was.
Thoma dismounted Mordelai once he spotted what he had been looking for. A sign that read “Aramis the Blacksmith” in bold letters, it had an anvil below that. He had been informed by one of his members that he could find help here. Though it appeared Aramis’s second line of work was not nearly as moral as his first. Thoma knew he had to be careful in here, the smith might as well just kill him for knowing than help him. He also knew that he had to take chances, but he did not have to like it.
The short squat wooden building appeared rundown but he didn’t expect much better from a smith anyway. He strode to the door his gray cloak swaying to and fro as he stepped up on the rough wooden planking to the door, opening it he went through. The building was a buzz with the hammering of metal, the inside looked just as ramshackle as the outer, and two smiths maintained two anvils in the middle of the room, pounding out creations.
His gaze affixed to a bulking man hammering molten iron atop his anvil, his huge arms bringing his hammer down with great force, as sparks flew from the blow. His black haired head almost touched the ceiling. His bulking chest had a smiths leather apron draped over it and a white shirt was underneath, remarkably white for his line of work. The smith didn’t notice him right away, his thick brows kneading together in thought at what he wanted to wrought from the metal bar that laid before him. Thoma stood about for around ten minutes, before the smith noticed him or decided to acknowledge him. He called over to a shorter boy of a man standing at the back. “Lets see if you’ve been listening to what I’ve been saying Hirald, remember to work quickly or the iron will become brittle. If you have any questions ask Geral.” The other smith looked up with an exasperated sigh apparently upset he had to look after the apprentice as well as finish his own work.
Turing to Thoma he handed his hammer to Herald. “How can I help you?” He said in a deep voice, his broad nose twitched and thick lips drew together as his deep set black eyes fell upon him.
Thoma cleared his throat, “Could you perhaps smith this insignia for me, Aramis?” he handed the hulking smith a drawing of the Moon, flanked by two stars, with a blood-lark flying across the moon. Solin’s emblem. He stepped back as the smith studied the drawing.
“Aye, I’ve heard of you…Thoma is your name? I‘ve also heard talk of this insignia, being painted on buildings at night, only to be discovered by their owners in the morning. Why would you do something like that?”
Thoma cleared his throat. He looked pensively at the smith, sliding his gaze quickly to the other two in the shop, who thankfully had not looked up from their work. Although that didn’t mean they hadn’t heard. He hoped the smith hadn’t heard anything else about him. In fact Thoma was surprised the smith had heard anything about him.
“I am Thoma, and I do not condone the destruction of peoples property, it must have been one of my more fanatical followers, had I heard of this earlier I would have made an attempt to punish the transgressor. Unfortunately this is the first I have heard of it.” He noticed he was fiddling with his robe and stopped. He had no idea of who would have done such a thing, but he felt a little pride knowing that someone at least had a fervor for Solin’s teachings. His guard was up, but he knew if the smith meant him harm he had little chance of escaping.
The smith eyed him suspiciously “Why should I do business with you? I am surprised you’re not already dead!” The smith emitted a short laugh. “But yes, I can make this for you priest. It will be twenty ginni’s, it might take three days at the most. Payment due on completion of your order. Hopefully you are still alive to pay my price eh?” He stood waiting for Thoma’s response.
Thoma managed to suppress a grimace, for that was almost all the money he had gleaned from his followers but he was sure he could get more. Despite being a rather hefty price, he had need of Aramis’s help beyond his smith work. “Sounds like a deal good smith, and I have no intentions of dying. But I have more questions for you if you don’t mind.” A sly smile crossed the priests small mouth as he stroked his beard unconsciously.
“And what does your question be, priest?” Aramis looked skeptical, and Thoma couldn’t blame him, after all he couldn’t be the most credible in appearance.
“I was wondering If you could offer me a service…..” He glanced over at the other two smiths, who still hammered away at their work. “…maybe we could talk somewhere a little more private?” Thoma spread his hands as if to make up for the inconvenience.
The smith shrugged, he looked unsure but he said “Sure, anything to get out of this heated Hard-hole. Follow me priest.” Aramis, walked to the back of the smithy, where he opened a door flanked by hammers and tongs, and proceeded down a long hallway. Thoma followed with a feeling of anticipation, he may have found something here, but he had to be careful.
At the end of the hall Aramis opened another door and went through, followed by Thoma, Aramis sat down, after taking off his smiths apron, in what appeared to be an “office” if it could so be described. There was a desk behind which Aramis sat, papers were scattered all over the desk, along with a pen and ink he had several books upon the desk, one small painting of a smith standing by a forge hung on the wall in back of Aramis, other than this the small room was bare. Thoma closed the door and Aramis motioned to the seat across from him at the desk.
“Now lets hear your business priest, so I may get back to mine.” Aramis said very briskly, Thoma found it annoying that he’d be so brisk with him, but there was nothing he could do about the way people spoke to him, for now anyway.
“I’d like to hire you and your thieves.” The abruptness of the question obviously caught Aramis off guard, his eyes grew wide and his hands gripped his chair till his knuckles were white.
“Who told you about this?” His anger was evident, a vein throbbed in his neck, and Thoma became very aware of his rippling muscle’s, seeming to twitch for want of action.
“I cannot tell you that Master Aramis.” Thoma said softly and as submissively as he could.
It was obviously the wrong thing to say. “You best tell me now you skinny little weasel or I’ll tear your head right off.” He said as he stood to his full height of well over six feet.
Thoma coughed and raised his hand slowly, “Calm yourself friend, it is of no consequence, I am willing to offer you a large sum of money for your help, you should fear no harm from me sir.” That seemed to settle him down, as he sat back down, but he could see Aramis needed more convincing. The tension in the room seemed ready to explode.
“A week from today I will need your help, I will pay you eighty gold mira for your help if you can bring at least fifty fighters to my cause.” Thoma almost winced when eighty gold mira came out of his mouth. He did not have near that much, but he did have a plan. He didn’t really have a choice though, since he couldn’t be sure the smith could be convinced for less.
He appeared quite pleased at eighty gold mira, no doubt he was wondering what the task was, Thoma could practically see the brute’s brain churning, and had the answer ready before the question was asked.
“What would we be doing.” Asked the smith, his voice low and full of bass.
“Well, I would love to tell you now but I would like you to come to a meeting of me and my followers tonight.” Thoma smiled and began running his hand through his beard unconsciously again. “An hour from midnight, we will meet in the burned out church three miles east town. You know of it?” Thoma asked the smith, hoping the man would agree to come, but also not wanting to push him. He couldn’t tell the smith his plan yet, since he may just as well tell the local authorities, it would be better to wait until the power he had was consolidated and the smith would be better suited to join his cause.
The smith smiled, “You intrigue me Priest Thoma, I know the place. I will come, but this had better be good. I don’t like wasting my time on foolish games from foolish men.” he pushed back his chair as if to stand.
“Wait a moment Aramis, one last thing before I go. I want you to have a copy of this.” He reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a copy of the Book of Adus, the cover was dark blue like the original book, but it was made of a lesser fabric, and not nearly as incredible to behold. He had hired a local scribe, and he had worked for two day’s straight to smash the huge Book of Adus into this shorter revised version. It had to be revised to leave out the incantations Thoma needed for Solins return, he couldn’t have people running around with such vital information. Thoma only had one, but he knew this was the right man to give it to.
Aramis looked at the book laying in front of him, and quickly notice the insignia. “This is the insignia you wish me to make for you.” The smith looked interested in the book which was the best Thoma could hope for.
He leaned forward towards Aramis to make his words more important, more potent. “That emblem is the insignia of Solin, the god of truth the god of righteousness. Not like the many gods that are currently worshipped in Arsinos today. I mean to change that Aramis. In this book it says that Solin will return soon, very soon. In fact, that Is partly why I need your help Aramis, Solin cannot return unless you help me, if you do you will be showered with riches and power I’m sure.” Thoma’s lips curved in a cutting smile, his eyes narrowed as the hand scrubbing his beard dropped away. “Of course if you oppose me I’m sure you can imagine what may happen.” He took a moment to judge Aramis’s reaction. He looked confused, not surprisingly. Thoma decided to continue, so the smith couldn’t let unwanted idea’s enter his head while Thoma was still in the room. “A new god is coming to Arsinos, and he is angry that we have forgotten to worship him.” His voice grew steadily louder until by the end he was almost shouting. “In the book of Adus it speaks of him coming back to kill the unbelievers, the faithless. Do you want to be one of the faithless when he comes to return his rage upon us Aramis?”
Aramis was looking at him strangely and Thoma noticed he was standing and sweating profusely. Let him think I’m mad, Thoma thought. He wiped his forehead clear of sweat. Maybe he’ll be that much more swayed to believe.
Indeed Aramis seemed uncomfortable, he shifted in his chair, running a hand through his short black hair. “I don’t know if I believe you preacher, Triarii, the god of war has been good to me in the past. You ask me to do something blasphemous, only a fool, such as you, would openly defy our gods. Unfortunately business has been bad these past few months, and the Lord of Nobles has threatened to take my shop if I can’t pay the smith’s guild in three months. I need your money priest but do not push your god upon me.” Aramis gave Thoma a burning look, but it soon washed away, leaving him with a blank stare. “I will meet you at the burned church, and we will discuss this further.” The smith put the book Thoma had given him in a drawer in the desk.
“Don’t forget to flip through it huh?” Thoma said.
“I may, or I may not priest, now I have work to get to.” Aramis rose to stand, picking up his leather vest, he draped it over his gigantic shoulders.
Thoma took the cue to leave, but before he exited through the door behind him he said. “Don’t be among the faithless Aramis, it would be a bad decision for you. The time has come.” He left out the door, and strode through the shop, where the other smiths were still hammering their wares out. Geral apparently berating Herald over some mistake he had made, but Thoma had too much on his mind to divide his attention.
He walked through the shop door and came back out into the brightest noonday sun he had seen since being here. The weather here in the north of Arsinos was quite fickle. He loosed his horses tether, put his foot in the stirrup and hauled himself up. He kicked the horse into a canter, wondering if maybe he should have come in the back door, if there was one. No one needed to see him here.
He rode at a canter for a good fifteen minutes before coming to an old wooden warehouse in the older western part of town. All of the structures here were old and decaying, and the streets had no cobbled stones like the other parts of town, and rambled in a style that seemed to have no order to it. The abandoned warehouse he had chosen for his headquarters was badly in disrepair but it mattered little to him. He dismounted from Mordelai, leaving him free to search out what little grass there was poking up through the dirt of the street and around the buildings.
He entered through the large broken doorway. Twelve men and seven women lurked inside the dark confines of the warehouse. He shut the broken door, not that it did much good being as broken as it was. These were his closest conversions, the ones who truly believed his prophecy. Most were dressed in the rags of the poor, but one or two had the dressings of a moderate citizen.
The floor was bare dirt and five men knelt in the middle of the room each man before a little legless table copying down one line of script or another from the book of Adus. Thoma had taken the book to the local scribe first to have it copied into a revised portion. The man had looked at him oddly, but he hadn’t said anything. Thoma doubted he had attained anything from the book, or remembered anything. He only hoped the scribe didn’t raise the alarm of his teachings before he had time to do what he planned. He had given the one book that the local scribe had given him to the scribe he had in his followers, who had scribed the book for Aramis. So far they only had three more completed, but soon they would have more resources. He notice more pages sat on another legless table ready for binding.
The seven women were sewing together two sides of a sleeveless tunic for the followers. It would have the insignia of Solin on the chest in black on a backdrop of blue. They had completed at least fifty of them in the past two days.
The other seven men were making arrowheads and bows sitting in a circle talking on the top level in a hayloft sort of area of the warehouse. Thoma had counted on getting his swords and any armor from the smith, he hoped Aramis came around, as he was a crucial part of the plan. Thoma didn’t know anything much of warfare, but he knew fighting with swords and shields must be better than clubs and rags. They had maybe twenty bows and some one hundred arrows. He still had time, but he was quickly running out. All of his followers stopped their work to look at him, the ones in the loft, looking down over the side of the wooden planks, like faithful sheep, waiting for a shepherd, Thoma thought greedily.
“Where are the others?” Thoma asked, “I told no one to leave.” He thought for a minute that maybe he should ask who had been painting Solin’s insignia on buildings around town, simply because it might bring more attention from the local government. He decided not to since it might deter his followers from being outspoken in the future.
“They went out into the town and surrounding areas to collect any resources they could. Money, weapons, anything of value Savior Thoma.” said Barim, an average sized man with black hair to his shoulders and quite a few piercings on his ears and lips. His lank hair covered a soft childish face with a turned up nose. Barim winced as light through the cracked warehouse walls hit his face. Motes of dust floated upon the rays of sunshine, that pierced the dark innards of the building.
Thoma smiled grimly, he was getting used to power, however small it was. They had begun calling him Thoma the Savior, which he didn’t really mind, it had a nice ring to it. “Let us hope they return with something of profit, for we are needing a stroke of good luck my Solin Din.” Solin Din, meant Solin’s Servants in an ancient forgotten language. Luckily the book of Adus had retained the information within it. Although that was about all of the aged language inside the book. The aged language had been lost to the modern civilizations, only a few words here and there remained. The book said the Solin Din would help clean the land of sin. That they would be the servants of the return. Sometimes Thoma thought it almost seemed that whoever had written the book knew it would be found a long time after their religion and civilization was gone. Maybe he was even meant to have found the book. He was the chosen one. The master of the return.
A young woman, Azura, her dirty blonde hair covered a face that was equally as filthy, addressed him quietly, “Savior Thoma, we should hold a clinic, and preach our faith to the entire town of Tamirra, the entire town needs to be saved Savior Thoma.” She was crouched down with a piece of tunic in her hands, her brown eyes were almost pleading, as if she really cared for the lost miscreants of an old and dying religion. Yet he did agree that he needed more followers, and it was about time they held an open demonstration to convince these people, to prod them in the right direction. His.
“Your right Azura, we shall rendezvous a week from now in the town square and make our voices heard!” His hands shot to the ceiling as his Solin Din gave a cheer to show their enthusiasm. “Hurry faithful Solin Din, make as many of the books as possible so we can hand them out. And finish as many uniforms as possible, we‘ll need to look our best.” A quick smile crossed his face as he looked across his loyal admirers, how great it was to be followed, to be wanted. “Spread the word, to the others, the town square in a week. If we do this however, the local government will come down upon us.” His voice seemed to emanate from the walls around them, it made him seem all the more powerful. “We cannot let ourselves be defeated and so we must fight if need be.” A few of the Din had fear cross their faces as he mentioned the word fight, but it quickly passed “Whoever is not willing to fight for our cause will be punished, anyone here who is not willing, stand immediately and show us your cowardice.” He had fully expected at least one person to stand. He raised his head to look at those in the loft, his eyes probing them for weakness.
“No one here can defy the needs of Solin Savior Thoma!” Barim said as he shot his gaze toward the ceiling, almost as if he was expecting a gift from Solin that minute. His eyes slowly wandered down the walls back to Thoma. “We will fight, and we will win!” He was quite surprised, he didn’t expect anybody to say that, and he would have to remember Barim’s faithfulness.
Thoma gave Barim a grateful smile, he could use anybody’s enthusiasm, one man couldn’t do this on his own, no matter how much Thoma wished he could. “Very well then, tonight we meet outside the town in the burned out church with a hopeful ally of mine. I will need at least ten of you to come with me.” Everybody there stood prompting Thoma to pick which ones he needed. He wanted the best looking people with him tonight, he wanted to impress Aramis, not scare him away with a band of homeless and fools. He selected seven of the men, and three of the women. No one objected to his demands which was better for any who might have had it in their minds. Barim was in this group, he thought he might have use for Barims outspoken belief when he talked with Aramis.
Thoma coughed from the motes of dust, thrusting a finger at the group he had assembled. “I want all of you to wear the tunics we have made when we depart. As for the rest of you,” His gaze swept over the rest in the barn, “I want you to recruit as many more people as possible. But do not let them alert anybody in town of our plans. Kill them if need be.” Several people looked taken aback, but Thoma didn’t care. “If somebody were to tell the Lord of Nobles our entire strategy would be cut to pieces, and we would probably all be strung from the gallows.” That seemed to get the idea through their heads. Thoma needed them to understand the direness of the situation. “Now make haste, for tomorrow we must be ready for the begin of the return. Keepers of the faith, Solin Din.”
They bowed their heads. “Yes Savior Thoma. It will be as you wish.” They echoed in unison.
“Good.” He said even as he turned to walk out the door.
His little band of the homeless and the untouchables from this town was hardly what he would call a proper following, but soon he thought he may have enough power to sway even more powerful and persuasive characters of local governments.
He left then, kicking open the door, dust and flecks of old red paint flying from it, and mounted his brown gelding Mordelai, turning him back toward the center of town he knew he had more to take care of today. Things were beginning to fall into place, faster and smoother than he could have ever imagined. No doubt the Irican government would have heard of his exploits by now. There was no way they could know the full extent of his plans and may just think him a raving lunatic. Maybe just unobtrusive enough for them to forget about him. He knew the guild of the gods would be after him soon though. They would not let these transgressions pass lightly.
A young brown haired girl played in the dirt outside her house with a doll, as a yellow dog ran across the street which was otherwise lifeless. He had picked the western half of the city for his base, because it was poor, and if the residents saw something suspicious the local lords probably wouldn’t listen or care. And local militia patrols were less than often around here.
He had noticed about himself that he had no real love for the people of Irican. Thoma found them almost barbaric, a nation of peasants and farmers. He himself came from Ban Edra in Mithri. Although he didn’t really consider himself from Mithri either, he had grown up there, but he left not far after his eighteenth birthday. He was a man of many nations and all of none. He was a loner, but he wasn’t a vagabond nomad either. He was somewhere in the middle, if there was one.
The sun began sinking towards the horizon now, Thoma guessed dusk couldn’t be far off. He was tired and wanted an ale and a bed. Too bad he was low on money. He didn’t even have one Mira, when he had promised Aramis eighty for the job. He needed a source of money, but he did have a plan. One of his Din worked at a local bank, and even now he was making his get away. The only problem is that Thoma would have to hide him now after the job had been done, otherwise the local militia would find him and the mira. The local lord might even call in the Order of Orlead, the better trained soldiers of the town, who numbered far less, but were far more able when it came to fighting. Not to mention their armor and weapons were superb. It didn’t really matter though, it was almost too late for the Lord of Nobles in Tamirra to do anything. And since the nobles had no idea as of now anyway, he had strong doubts that they would be able to manage any stronger resistance than he already expected when his plan went into action.
Now he was going to go meet his Din outside of town to collect the mira. If everything went according to plan, he would have at least two to three hundred mira by the end of the day and at least two thirds of the town’s citizens would be close to bankrupt. Since there were but two banks in town to suffice the residents who did have any money to put away. He would like to find a nice inn, the ale he wanted, and maybe a lady or two. But he knew that would have to wait.
He had conducted a bit of surveillance upon the town, he knew that the Lord of Nobles had sent out the Order of Orlead yesterday morning, probably to patrol the nearby countryside. He couldn’t send local militia since they would probably do a poor job, and loose the fight without a proper leader if they did find any trouble. He also had been informed that the lord had gotten lazy even in recruiting local militia. Their number was about three hundred, which was considerably less than a town of this size needed. It seemed as if Solin had also been preparing for this day, ready for Thoma to lead his return. Thoma smiled a smile of pure joy, he waved at a bit of dust that had blown in on a brief gust. It had been three days since he found the book, and already he almost had this faithless town in his hands. He just hoped Aramis would join his cause or else most of what he was doing was for naught.
Tomorrow brings the Din and I one step closer to the glorious return of Solin. Thoma thought happily.
“One day closer.” He chuckled softly to himself as the sun came down parallel to the rooftops. A slight wind blew his cloak about behind him as his horse carried him through the ramshackle streets of west Tamirra. The Savior yawned, his mouth opening wide as he wondered what the future may hold for him.
He rode for a good hour, passing inns, cobblers, smiths, and tailors. The restless din of noise growing more loudly as he entered the more industrious northern part of the city. The cobbled stone streets stretching out before him, as he passed the short stone walls at the city’s gate, the gate keepers didn’t even look his way in the throng, and entered the forest that began about a mile beyond the walls. He was grateful that there was almost no one on the road right now, and he slowly curved off the road and into the forest after about another half mile into the wood, and followed a dusty walking path.
He had rode only a short distance before entering into a small clearing, filled with sprouting flowers and the stumps of tree’s that had once thrived in the clearing. A small man in a light brown striped shirt sat on a stump with his blue coat hanging lazily open. He looked as if he was trying to take a nap sitting up, with his chin sitting wearily upon his chest. One eye however, opened slightly, and on seeing Thoma he immediately sprung to his feet.
“Savior Thoma! I have done as you wished.” His mouth worked around silent words, as he finally spat out the rest. “Now we have the mira so Solin may have a comfortable return!” His eyes were spread wide now, as he motioned behind the stump he had been sitting, and picked up a brown cloth bag that clinked with the wonderful sound of coins.
“How many did you acquire Hepar?” Thoma murmured out as he climbed off his horse.
“Four hundred mira! I cleaned out the bank, just as you asked Savior Thoma.” His thin nose crinkled up for a moment. “Are you going to hide me until we bring back Solin Savior Thoma? I don’t wish to loose my head, or be strung up.”
Four hundred mira! Thoma couldn’t believe it, it was almost better than he could of hoped. He never even really expected Hepar to get out alive let alone with more than he had said he could get! Thoma sighed though, he didn’t really like Hepar, and dealing with him was like dealing with a child of five. He was easy to convince about Solin, and just as easily convinced to steal mira from the bank where he worked. He had to protect him however, no matter how annoying Thoma found him, he couldn’t have Hepar caught and questioned. “Yes Hepar, of course I will protect you,” his mind tried to work out just how though. He couldn’t take him back into town, the militia watch would surely be looking for the scant little man. “but I think you may have to stay out here in the forest for one more night. I can’t bring you back just yet.” Hepar’s face sunk a little bit, a frown coming over him. “But I will Hepar,” Thoma said hastily, “I just have to wait for a bit. But I will come back for you. Do you have food?” Hepar nodded slowly. “Well, build a pit for a fire, and bide your time out here. And do not be seen, by anyone. I will come for you, and when I do I will give you a reward for being such a help. And I’ll even put in a good word for you with Solin.”
At that Hepars face brightened and he smiled up at Thoma. “Thank you Savior Thoma. I will wait for your return.”
“Thank you Hepar.” Thoma gathered up the seven bags of gold, and stuffed them in his saddle bags. He jumped back on Mordelai, and with a wave at the disheartened Hepar, probably at having to stay another night in the cold dark woods, turned Mordelai back down the path to the road.
Thoma straightened in his saddle after looking down the row of his five followers, all dressed in the tunics they had made, and they looked good, the emblem of Solin looked fantastic. Their cloaks all hung loosely down their backs, as they plodded along. All of his followers had to pitch in, in order to acquire as many horses as they needed. He had even had to buy three, but at ten silver ginni’s they had almost been a bargain. The other five in his party had gone forth to the burned out church to start a fire, and await his presence. It was at least two hours till midnight, so he should arrive before Aramis unless he was early.
They rode on in silence, he hadn’t spoken much with the rest of his followers. In fact he didn’t even know their names, if all this worked out he would have to make a better show of that. After a while of traveling down the darkened road they came to a point where another older overgrown road connected to it from the left. Dark fields surrounded it on all sides, but there was not a house in view for miles. He turned left on the road followed by his contingent and continued along down it.
Soon they saw a charred black church in the distance, but no fire could be seen. Well done Barim, Thoma thought, he had hoped the young man would have had enough sense to conceal the fire. They rode up to the church at a canter, the fire becoming evident from about thirty feet away. The church had blackened timbers poking out from every side, the ceiling had broken apart and probably been used for firewood by the surrounding villagers, and the windows were all gone, the doorway facing the road had collapsed. They rode around the church, their horses hooves fell silently on the ground. He dismounted from his horse and strode in through the back door of the church, the inside was bare dirt where the floorboards had been torn away, and a floor of stones had been set down, atop of which the fire was placed. Barim stood and looked to Thoma obviously he thought they might have been someone else.
“Set a watch and you might not be surprised next time?” A frown crossed his face, as Barim sat back down. He had thought Barim had shown some promise, but he remembered he was still young and had much to learn.
“Aramis has not arrived I presume,” The five who had been there shook their heads. “then I suppose you five should do something else for me then. I want you to head back to a copse of sprouting evergreen’s I saw about a mile back, and I want you to make spears. Long spears, about six feet long. Travel well enough off the road so nobody see‘s you.” They eyed him questioningly, no doubt wondering why he would give them such an order. He ignored their looks, raising his hands he clapped them together loudly. “And I want it done NOW!” He shouted at them, but took care not to shout so loud as to attract attention. They began humorously scrambling about trying to get to the door with getting too close to Thoma. One man with a fledgling beard, tripped and fell, landing hard on the wooden floor, before scrambling out the door himself. After that, the four men, and one woman, who had traveled up here with him came in, and sat about on the dusty wooden benches in the back near the collapsed door to the road.
“You there,” Thoma pointed at a boy who couldn’t be older than 18. He looked to Thoma wide eyed, brushing his lanky blonde hair out of his blue eyes. “Go out and keep watch, come and tell me when their party comes within view.” The boy bolted out of the room, leaving Thoma and his other four